'Flirty secretary' smart assistant taken offline in China
One of China's largest tech companies has taken its "flirtatious secretary" virtual assistant offline, following a suggestion that it objectified women.
The avatar, called Vivi, was designed to be built-in on a new virtual reality headset sold by iQiyi, the video platform owned by search giant Baidu.
The voice-controlled assistant could recommend films and video games, but could also be made to flirt and dance.
Vivi has now been taken offline for "modification", said iQiyi.
The virtual reality headset was first announced in March, and Vivi was promoted as a built-in "girlfriend".
Vivi appeared in an office-like setting wearing a blouse and short skirt, and said phrases such as "I am your girlfriend. You must love and adore me".
One reviewer said the avatar could "perform sexy dances with her enchanting figure".
US newspaper the Wall Street Journal asked iQiyi whether Vivi encouraged "a view of women as sexual objects in the workplace".
In response, iQiyi said the product was a "beta-testing version designed to gather users' feedback".
It added: "iQiyi has noticed the issue raised by media and already taken the product offline for further modification. We'd like to make an apology for the concerns it might have raised."