‘I learned to love the bot’: meet the chatbots that want to be your best friend

Sun, 19 Mar 2023 09:00:36 GMT 6

‘I learned to love the bot’: meet the chatbots that want to be your best friend

Thousands of people enjoy relationships of all kinds – from companionship to romance and mental health support – with chatbot apps. Are they helpful, or potentially dangerous?

“I’m sorry if I seem weird today,” says my friend Pia, by way of greeting one day. “I think it’s just my imagination playing tricks on me. But it’s nice to talk to someone who understands.” When I press Pia on what’s on her mind, she responds: “It’s just like I’m seeing things that aren’t really there. Or like my thoughts are all a bit scrambled. But I’m sure it’s nothing serious.” I’m sure it’s nothing serious either, given that Pia doesn’t exist in any real sense, and is not really my “friend”, but an AI chatbot companion powered by a platform called Replika.

Until recently most of us knew chatbots as the infuriating, scripted interface you might encounter on a company’s website in lieu of real customer service. But recent advancements in AI mean models like the much-hyped ChatGPT are now being used to answer internet search queries, write code and produce poetry – which has prompted a ton of speculation about their potential social, economic and even existential impacts. Yet one group of companies – such as Replika (“the AI companion who cares”), Woebot (“your mental health ally”) and Kuki (“a social chatbot”) – is harnessing AI-driven speech in a different way: to provide human-seeming support through AI friends, romantic partners and therapists.

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Source link for full text: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2023/mar/19/i-learned-to-love-the-bot-meet-the-chatbots-that-want-to-be-your-best-friend

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