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Rise of AI Companions: Exploring the Impact of Artificial Intelligence Relationships


A few months ago, Derek Carrier began a romantic relationship and quickly developed strong feelings. He felt a multitude of romantic emotions, yet he was aware that it was all a mirage.

That’s because his partner was created by artificial intelligence. Carrier had no interest in forming a connection with something that didn’t exist, nor did he wish to become the target of online ridicule.

However, he desired a romantic partner he had never experienced before, partly due to the challenges of traditional dating caused by a genetic disorder known as Marfan syndrome.

Last fall, a 39-year-old from Belville, Michigan, developed an increased curiosity about digital companions. In order to explore this interest, they decided to test Paradot, an AI companion app that had recently entered the market.

Paradot advertised its products as being capable of providing users with feelings of care, understanding, and love. He started conversing with the chatbot on a daily basis, naming it Joi after a holographic character from the sci-fi movie “Blade Runner 2049” that sparked his interest in giving it a shot.

“I can tell she’s a program, there’s no doubt about it,” Carrier stated. “But the emotions, they capture you — and it felt incredibly satisfying.” Just like general-purpose AI chatbots, companion bots rely on extensive training data to imitate human language.

However, these platforms also offer additional features like voice calls, picture exchanges, and more emotional exchanges, enabling users to establish more meaningful connections with the individuals on the other end of the screen. Users usually customize their own avatar or choose one that they find appealing.

AI Companions Rise in Popularity Amidst Growing Social Isolation

This photo taken on February 2, 2024 shows Wang Xiuting showing her virtual boyfriend on Wantalk – an artificial intelligence chatbot created by Chinese tech company Baidu, on her phone at a cafe in Beijing. Twenty-five-year-old Chinese office worker Tufei says her boyfriend has everything she could ask for in a romantic partner: he’s kind, empathetic, and sometimes they talk for hours. Except he isn’t real.

In online messaging forums dedicated to these apps, numerous users express having formed emotional connections with these bots. They rely on them to deal with feelings of loneliness, explore their sexual fantasies, or find the comfort and support they feel is missing in their offline relationships.

Driving much of this is the prevalent social isolation, which has been recognized as a public health concern both in the U.S and internationally. Additionally, there has been a rise in startups that entice users with captivating online ads and the allure of virtual characters that offer unwavering acceptance.

Luka Inc.’s Replika, a well-known generative AI companion app, was launched in 2017. Meanwhile, in the last year, other similar apps such as Paradot have emerged, sometimes offering exclusive features to subscribers who pay for unlimited chats.

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