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Microsoft-backed group aims to bridge language gap with AI assistant

The Jugalbandi bot, named after a duet where two musicians riff off each other, uses language models from government-backed AI4Bharat and artificial intelligence tech through Microsoft's Azure OpenAI

Illustration: Ajay Mohanty

Illustration: Ajay Mohanty

Reuters

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By Aditya Soni and Yuvraj Malik

An Indian research group backed by Microsoft and Infosys co-founder Nandan Nilekani is using generative AI, the technology behind chatbot sensation ChatGPT, for a mobile assistant that aims to make information on government schemes accessible in multiple languages.
 
The Jugalbandi bot, named after a duet where two musicians riff off each other, uses language models from government-backed AI4Bharat and artificial intelligence tech through Microsoft's Azure OpenAI Service.
 
Operating over Meta Platforms-owned WhatsApp messaging service, the bot can understand questions in 10 Indian languages and retrieves information that is usually written in English on government websites to relay it in local languages.
 
Microsoft said the bot could help bridge the language barrier in India where English is spoken by just 11% of the 1.4 billion population, citing examples where it helped a student get a scholarship and a farmer apply for pension for his parents.
There are, however, some accuracy issues.
 
Like Google's Bard and Microsoft-owned Bing, Jugalbandi can sometimes deliver answers that seem convincing but are made up - a tendency that has been called hallucination.
 
Jugalbandi's application is also limited by a lack of data as organizations often do not have either the bandwidth or expertise in building data pipelines to feed to the bot.
 
"Sometimes these models do make errors. They are probabilistic machines," said Pratyush Kumar, co-principal investigator at AI4Bharat and a principal researcher at Microsoft Research India.
 
He added that AI4Bharat is trying to resolve such issues by seeking feedback from organizations such as Gram Vaani, a Delhi-based social enterprise that closely works with farmers.
 
(Reporting by Yuvraj Malik in Bengaluru; editing b)

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First Published: May 23 2023 | 8:39 PM IST

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