Microsoft-powered AI chatbot ‘Jugalbandi’ is here.


Microsoft on Tuesday unveiled ‘Jugalbandi’, a new generative Artificial Intelligence-driven chatbot on mobile devices, which is here to help the people residing in villages of India have easier access to government services. The chatbot is being developed in collaboration with Microsoft Research and the government-backed AI4Bharat, an open-source language AI center based at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras and OpenNyAI.

A villager in Haryana using Jugalbandi AI chatbot on WhatsApp.(Microsoft/Youtube)
A villager in Haryana using Jugalbandi AI chatbot on WhatsApp.(Microsoft/Youtube)

Microsoft explained the vision behind the bot in its blog published Tuesday, saying that though business and public life in India are largely conducted in English, merely 11 per cent of the population speaks the language, while 57 per cent of the population speaks Hindi. “That leaves vast numbers of the population unable to access government programs because of language barriers…Jugalbandi offers all Indians easy access to information in the local language through a mobile phone,” the company said.

What are the features of Jugalbandi?

1)People associated with Jugalbandi have hailed it as a ‘chatbot plus plus’ since it’s like “a personalized agent”. “It understands your exact problem in your language and then tries to deliver the right information reliably and cheaply, even if that exists in some other language in a database somewhere,” said Abhigyan Raman, a project officer at ‘AI4Bharat’.

2)The bot has to be served with relevant prompts to generate answers. The new generation AI bots are hailed as more efficient due to their ability to present a consolidated answer instead of giving a long list of links to plough through, like in traditional web searches.

3)Jugalbandi in Hindi refers to a duet between two musicians in Indian classical music. The AI-driven assistant is powered by language models from ‘AI4Bharat’, a government initiative. It can be accessed through the mobile messaging system WhatsApp, which makes it easy to operate, the company said.

4)The made-in-India chatbot, currently in its nascent stage, is aimed at providing government assistance tools at the fingertips of mobile users. So far, it understands 10 of the 22 official Indian languages and covers 171 government programs.

How does it work?

Microsoft explained that one has to send a text or audio message to a WhatsApp number, which initiates the chatbot. The message is transcribed to text using the AI4Bharat speech recognition model, then it is translated into English by the Bhashini translation model trained by AI4Bharat. Bhashini was launched by the government in July 2022, to provide language solutions as digital public goods so that people can access the internet and digital services in their own language through emerging technologies, Microsoft explained.

Its underlying technology is OpenAI’s ChatGPT, therefore, based on the prompts, “information on the relevant government scheme is retrieved, the answer is translated into Hindi, then it is synthesized with the AI4Bharat text-to-speech model and sent back to WhatsApp – and the villager’s ear,” the tech giant said.

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