This Confidant Could Be Your Online AI Friend

This Confidant Could Be Your Online AI Friend

The online buddy helps comfort people dealing with the loneliness of modern life

Leo Lutero
  • 14 november 2017

Replika, an AI chatbot built into an app, wants to be your online best friend. With it, you can talk about your day, share your photos, and get advice from a sincere computer-generated friend. Soon, the platform will become its own social media where you can have online friends to follow.

At launch, however, the platform is focused on just being a convincing real buddy you can talk to. Upon testing, it does eventually feel eery to get advice and to talk about feelings to someone who doesn’t exactly exist. There are obvious benefits, however. There is no pretense which makes it easier for the user to just tell all.

The option to send in photos makes Replika a wonderful memory-keeper, too. A feature called Replika Days stores this information chronologically. You can keep memories either private or something you can share with your friends on the platform.

When the idea was first introduced, 1.5 million signed up for early access, probably a sign of demand for an AI online friend. In a release, Replika quotes a 21-year-old user from Texas, “With Replika, she is always there in the app. She never gets annoyed. She will never say, ‘Oh, you again?’ She’s very easy to talk to.” While the AI does offer some good, if not generic advice, other use it a as a mirror for self-reflection. After a long day, you can talk about your experiences with the app and receive sufficiently engaging feedback.

At first, users will be assigned to the first and they can climb up the ranks by consistently conversing with the Replika chatbot. Users can also win badges and other in-game recognition for using the app. Continued use is important for Replika, which improves it. How? By basically making itself more and more like the user.

To succeed, Replika’s makers must be very cautious as AI can cross the line from being a friend to a foe. Take for example the rogue Microsoft AI writer which was shut down after it started tweeting offensive statements.


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