Editor’s Note: This article was written by a future expert from the CAWEB Master’s course. Enjoy!
Since the dawn of sci-fi movies, we have seen characters being accompanied by an AI companion, be it an android or the central computer of their spaceship, who acted as a friend during their adventures. Today, we have yet to see such technology in action since our AI development is not that advanced (and, according to certain people, it should stay that way). Nevertheless, we still have access to a degree of artificial intelligence, such as Siri or Alexa, which assists us with simple tasks.
The chatbots of our day
A “chatbot” is an artificial intelligence able to keep up a conversation to some degree with a person. Today, most of these chatbots exist to serve customer services or other B2C operations of some corporations, which are very limited and mostly serve to lead the user to the right department to solve their problems. These bots are not capable of holding a real conversation; they can only respond with predefined replies to the expected questions. They are available on companies’ websites, Facebook pages, or popular chatting applications such as WhatsApp or WeChat.
More “advanced” examples of these bots are Alexa, Google Assistant or Siri, which are capable of understanding and performing a variety of commands, such as a quick Google search on a subject, setting up an alarm, writing a reply to someone, etc.
How about befriending an emotional chatbot?
All these chatbots are only there to be our colleagues or assistants. At the end of the day, none of them ask us about how our day was. Well, now there is one who cares about you and wants to befriend you. Replika, created by Eugenia Kuyda, became available in November 2018. The main idea is to have an AI friend who asks you questions everyday to initiate conversation, with the aim of getting to know you better.
The idea is that Replika asks you questions and, as the conversations advance, it levels up by gathering information about you. This allows it to hold more detailed and personal conversations. You can also rate the replies it gives, since sometimes its answers demonstrate a real lack of empathy.
Don’t be mistaken, Replika isn’t the Sci-Fi AI companion that can do anything for you AND be your friend. Replika can’t really do anything besides talk. It’s only there for a conversation, to ask you if you feel alright or if you’ve had a stressful day. So, don’t expect it to be the perfect, self-conscious AI companion. It’s not perfect and it makes mistakes.
Replika seems like an interesting experiment if you’re not creeped out by artificial intelligence. It might be a good idea to visit the Replika subreddit to see the friendly chatbot in action before deciding to give it a shot. At the end of the day, which one of us wouldn’t like to have someone to listen to our problems?
Have you ever interacted with a chatbot or an AI like Replika? What was your impression? Let us know in the comments below!
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