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Xiaoi

Amazon's Alexa is gaining popularity in the U.S., but if you want to know the most popular chatbot in the world — by far — that would be Xiaoi, an intelligent conversational bot accounting for about 90% of the Chinese market, with some 500 million users, per Topbots' Adelyn Zhou.

Xiaoi, marketed by Shanghai-based Zhizhen, was introduced in 2004. In 2015, Microsoft won a major Chinese court battle against Zhizhen, which challenged patents for Siri, and now the U.S. company markets a rival text bot in China named Xiaoice, which has about 40 million users. But 40 of China's top 50 banks are Xiaoi clients, Zhou writes, and the 16-year-old company handles some 200 million interactions a day, the largest portion of which are from the financial sector.

Why it matters: Zhizhen appears to be exceedingly ahead of any western company in understanding the market for intelligent, natural language chat bots that interact smoothly with humans.

Xiaoil operates on on top of the wildly popular WeChat platform. Among transactions possible using voice recognition software through Xiaoi, clients make payments, transfer money, buy airline tickets, book rooms, order textbooks, and sign up for classes.

  • Zhou writes: "While US media continually lauds the achievements of IBM's Watson and Google's AlphaGo, we hardly ever hear of Xiaoi, a conversational AI giant whose bots — deployed to almost every business sector in China — have engaged 500 million users and processed more than 100 billion conversations."

Go deeper

Former FDA commissioner: "Reliable drug supply is absolutely critical"

Axios' Caitlin Owens and former FDA commissioner Mark McClellan. Photo courtesy of Axios Events

Having a reliable supply of pharmaceutical drugs throughout America will be "absolutely critical" to boosting affordability in health care during the Biden administration, former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner Mark McClellan said at a virtual Axios Event on Friday.

The big picture: McClellan, who served under President George W. Bush, says drugs having limited supply and limited competition leads to elevated pricing. He considers drug supply to be a national security and public health issue.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
2 hours ago - Economy & Business

Americans are still spending money

Source: Census Bureau; Chart: Axios Visuals

Americans spent more money at stores and restaurants in 2020 than they did in 2019 — even in the face of a devastating global pandemic that shut down broad sectors of the economy.

Why it matters: The monthly retail sales report this morning came in well below expectations, and showed consumer spending falling on a seasonally-adjusted basis. Total expenditures were still higher in December 2020 than they were a year previously, however.

The deplatforming fight shifts to the courts

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The Capitol riot and tech firms' sweeping attempt in its wake to dislodge the online far right are kicking up efforts to have the courts settle knotty questions about online speech and power.

Why it matters: Legal battles could force the people angry at Big Tech to bring more rigor to arguments that have often devolved into messy sideshows.