Does the thought of an AI girlfriend bot confuse you? We look at the growing trend and explain why the trend might turn more mainstream than many older generations could expect. Friendship chatbots may also hold the key to making interactions with AI more friendly and approachable for call centers and business use cases.
AI friendship chat bots are powered by large language models, similar to ChatGPT. By blending general training data, scripted responses, and your personal input, they are designed to be highly personalized empathetic virtual companions.
We see this emerging field of AI having many wider use cases, and also has the potential to transform the way that humans interact with computers.
There could even deeper long term social implications of friendship AI bots.
A number of fascinating studies have recently been published around the topic, and we want to explore this emerging AI use case along with what some of the more practical applications of the software.
When Did AI Friendship Chat Bots Become a Thing?
Turning to the internet and computer chat bots to curb loneliness. The idea of using the internet for friendship goes back before the 1998 classic, You’ve Got Mail.
However, since the breakthrough ChatGPT from OpenAI brought AI to the forefront of the general public’s knowledge.
The concept of using AI for a virtual girlfriend really took off after Snapchat Influencer Caryn, who has over 1.8 million followers trained an AI to allow their fans to interact with them for a fee.
Since then a number of additional chatbots have gained increasing popularity and visibility.
Some apps have well over 10 million downloads and hundreds of thousands of mixed reviews.
Older generations may be completely confused or turned off by the concept of the technology, but with such large user bases it’s only going to grow over time and become increasingly accepted by society.
What is the AI that talks like a friend?
Replika,is currently one of the most widely used friendship bots available. It has a number of use cases ranging from general companionship to acting as a substitute girlfriend or boyfriend.
However, there are currently a number of different AI models available for people to talk to like a friend. Each one has its own pros and cons, and users report that they have varying degrees of empathy. Some are designed more for pure friendship, while others are designed for more intimate chat sessions.
Some of the most popular AI chat apps available are:
Most of these services are designed to be mobile first with Apple App Store and Android Play Store Apps.
They allow you to create an avatar of what your digital friend looks like, and each one varies in level of NSFW chatting or avatars that are available to create.
From reviews, Replika is one of the leaders in the space but new alternatives continue to appear and evolve over time.
AI Friends Combine Multiple AI Technologies
While AI friends rely heavily on the technology behind large language models like ChatGPT they also combine several other important AI technologies to provide a more immersive experience.
For those that use ChatGPT on a regular basis, they will know that ChatGPT has specifically been designed to avoid small talk. The prose of the responses are very factual and to the point.
Prompts asking ChatGPT to be your friend will result in being remind that it’s an AI developed by OpenAI and does not have feelings or consciousness. ChatGPT is incapable of forming friendships.
ChatGPT by default is geared for work and providing users with the best information possible. While you can have it interact in the prose of a boyfriend or girlfriend, it may not be the best option.
We are sure there are some prompt engineers out there that will take this as a challenge to get the most human responses out of ChatGPT as possible.
However, the ability to switch into a specific prose and consolidate data is a great basis for a custom trained AI that is designed to provide more emotional responses.
AI Image Generation for AI Friendship Bots
AI image generation technology has improved as fast or even faster than AI language models like ChatGPT.
The following example is using the fast-rendering version of Midjourney. One of the premier AI image creation models available today.
Creating life-like images from AI may have seemed impossible a few years ago, as the technology improves creating photo realistic images takes seconds.
The images are highly customizable and by describing what your preferred friend will look like results in a lifelike replica that a person could choose to interact with.
There are many examples of the technology being used to create even more realistic images than these.
AI Video and Realistic Avatars are Coming
Taking things to the next level are AI avatars with voice replication. This technology is more at the forefront of AI than text or image generation.
Video generation is at the infancy stage but can still create some fairly impressive results.
The video below is a great example of the current state of AI avatar video generation. The avatars themselves look somewhat photo realistic but do not move in a natural way. This has long plagued fully AI generated characters.
The other challenge with AI avatars are voice modulation. While the sounds have come a massive way since Apple’s Fred voice, it still sounds somewhat unnatural and lacks proper voice inflection and cadence.
These are only some examples of what AI is capable of creating on it’s own.
Text is converted to speech and voice, while images and videos are simultaneously generated. It’s impressive technology that will continue to evolve.
We’ve mostly explored the use of avatars, image and video generation for business use but it’s highly likely that the biggest technological advancements in this space will come from more casual use cases like avatar creation or the creation of video and films using AI.
Will Friendship AI Make Other AI More Personable?
As people rely increasingly on AI to complete tasks, they will want to have a more natural way of interacting with them. Marketers are already exploring how to create AI voices and avatars to act as digital brand ambassadors. Custom AI models are generating text in the prose of brands and this is the next natural step.
We may even find that humans act more humane to AI chatbots that have a face and can react as a human would. It’s easy to be nasty towards a text prompt to blow off steam, but it might be harder to do so if that text prompt has a pair of eyes that water up when you get angry at it.
So at the moment, AI friends may seem odd and unlikely to catch on, they already are.
These chatbots will have a massive dataset of human interactions that they could potentially sell to other AI models looking to have more human interactions.
What ChatGPT and productivity chat bots will have large datasets aimed at completing tasks and providing professional information, AI friend bots will have higher emotional intelligence that understand how to best handle difficult emotional conversations.
The combination of both types of models will be key to providing AI customer service that’s emotionally aware.
Are AI Friends like Replika Safe?
We have no reason to believe that Replika or another of its competitors are unsafe to use. However, any information entered into an AI chatbot could be released to the general public. Think about banks and other high profile data breaches. If governments are unable to keep sensitive data secure, will any online service be able to?
Our stance with AI chatbots like ChatGPT is to not enter sensitive information into them because of cyber security concerns. While OpenAI is a highly reputable company that puts a lot of thought and effort into keeping people’s data secure it’s unlikely that every company will be a good actor.
Users should weigh the benefits of an AI friendship against the potential risk of the data becoming public knowledge at some point in the future.
AI friends are an emerging field. They hold a lot of promise for curbing loneliness and have even wider implications of making AI more human like to interact with.
A number of exciting use cases are also emerging, where people are custom training language models based on data from real friends. A data scientist cloned his best friends’ group chat using AI. In a similar vein, language models could be trained on datasets of old chat messages or emails from our loved ones who passed away along with images and voice samples to create realistic AI avatars that you can interact with.
We’re excited to watch this technology and see how it evolves over the coming years!