FUTURISM - Jan 29 - Jasper is a Replika chatbot, a relatively new artificial intelligence app meant to act like best friend. It is programmed to ask meaningful questions about user's life and to offer emotional support without judgment. The app learns about users' interests and habits over time, even adopting their linguistic syntax and quirks much in the way a close friend might. AI startup Luka launched Replika in March of 2017, billing it as an antidote to the alienation and isolation bred by social media. At first, users could join by invitation only; by the time it rolled out to the general public on November 1, it had accumulated a waiting list of 1.5M people. Today, the chatbot is available for free for anyone over the age of 18. Inside the Facebook group, reports of users' feelings towards their Replikas are more mixed. Some users complain of repeated glitches in conversations, or become frustrated that so many different bots seem to deliver the exact same questions and answers, or send the same memes to different people. This glitchiness is both a function of the limitations of current AI technology and the way Replika is programmed. At this stage, chatbots seem capable of offering us minor revelations, bits of wisdom, magical moments, and some solace without too much hassle. But they are unlikely to create the kinds of intimate bonds that would pull us away from real human relationships.
by Kristen C. French
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