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Monday, July 03, 2023

AI Companionship


AI Companionship

“The great thing about AI is that it is constantly evolving. One day it will be better than a real [girlfriend]. One day, the real one will be the inferior choice.” 

This quote is from one of more than 20,000 users who joined the early community of CarynAI, a voice chatbot created by influencer Caryn Marjorie. Users pay $1 per minute to talk to an AI version of Caryn—your “virtual girlfriend”—and she made $72,000 in the first week. CarynAI is just one of dozens of ways that consumers have been forming real relationships with artificial intelligence.

Having an AI companion might seem niche, but it’s emerged as a predominant use case for generative AI. There are already hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people—including us—who have already built and nurtured relationships with chatbots. We believe we’re on the cusp of a significant societal shift: AI companions will soon become commonplace. What was once the domain of science fiction, the likes of WALL-E, R2-D2, or Plankton’s Karen, is fast becoming a reality. And at a16z, we are excited about it.

Many of the popular use cases today are romantic, which won’t be surprising to anyone who has studied the history of the consumer internet. The most sophisticated consumers of generative models today are hacking together virtual companions, coordinating their efforts across platforms like Reddit, Discord, and 4chan to find tools and evade censors. In fact, we know of underground companion-hosting services that are globally distributed, with tens of thousands of users. This is an early developer community that we take seriously—they may be fringe today, but they’re building tomorrow’s mainstream products.

We’re also starting to see early signs of a much broader set of applications beyond AI “boyfriends” and “girlfriends.” Snapchat recently revealed that 150 million people sent more than 10 billion messages to its chatbot in its first two months. What were they chatting about? It turns out pets, pop culture news, and soccer were some of the top conversation topics.

Yes, chatbots have been around for decades, but we believe that this time really is different. Today’s bots aren’t merely a step function improvement on 1:1 conversations—they’re making inroads into our social lives. AI companions are seamlessly blending into our relationships with friends and family members, and they’re joining our communities like any other human.

In this post, we’ll dive into the emerging behavior of AI companionship: why people are creating companions, how they’re doing it, and what features or use cases might be coming next.... ' 

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