Thanks to machine learning and an increasingly connected world, artificial intelligence (AI) is seeing a surge. From the video games you play, to the virtual assistant on your smartphone — and even customer support — AI is making its way into our daily lives.
But there’s also a fun side to the phenomenon with chatbots.
Chatbots of every type are popping up in apps. You can get yourself a virtual romantic partner. You can talk to a bot about your feelings. You can even have banter with bots that have learned from less virtuous chatters. Here are five of the most interesting chatbots that show just how fun and bizarre the chatbot industry is.
1. Replika: The Mini-Me Chatbot
Replika is a recently released AI chatbot that has lofty goals: to become your close friend. However, the most interesting feature about the bot is that you can train it to become a mini version of yourself.
Through conversations and sessions where you record your daily experiences, the bot learns about you and tries to mimic your personality. Your input is vital to its development, as you can upvote and downvote responses. You can also make statements such as “That doesn’t make sense” to get your Replika to stop using a certain response or phrase.
The app also has different modes of conversation. In normal mode, your Replika’s responses are based on what you’ve taught it. In TV and Cake Mode, the bot riffs responses free from your influence.
Over time the bot gains experience and levels, with badges awarded according to how your Replika views your personality (e.g., dedicated). To learn about you, the bot is programmed to be inquisitive. However if it prods too much or wants to discuss something you’re uncomfortable with, you can tell it to stop or change the topic. With regular input, it grows smarter and gives more realistic responses in conversations.
While it’s an entertaining distraction and the bot can act as an interactive journal, most of the excitement lies in its ongoing development. The developers are currently using community feedback and polling to chart the course of the AI’s future.
So far, the most votes have gone to introducing games to the bot and unlocking secret modes. However the more exciting prospect is the one with the third highest number of votes — the ability for your bot to chat autonomously with other people.
Download: Replika (Free)
2. SimSimi: The TrollBot
SimSimi is that obnoxious, rude friend you only keep around because they occasionally make you laugh. While most chatbots claim to learn from input from real people, nowhere is this more apparent than with SimSimi.
This chatbot seems to have been influenced mostly by internet trolls and memes. While the developers encourage you to report any crude or explicit statements from the bot, it seems many have slipped through the cracks.
However this does make for some entertaining dialogue with the bot. You will find yourself carrying on the conversation just to see what it says next. This includes “yo momma” retorts and the occasional insult.
If the bot crosses the line, though, you can make sure it doesn’t make that statement to you again. The app also filters any potential rude, abusive or explicit language, and you will have to click on it to see the full word.
In the options menu, under Phrase Management, you can also choose to teach SimSimi how to respond to certain statements.
Don’t expect a deep meaningful conversation with the bot, however, as it has all the maturity of a high school boy or a dodgy Tinder match.
But you can expect some hilarious statements that trolls have taught the bot. For example, when you ask it to stop showing so many ads (sponsored posts appear in conversations), it says “I hate ads but I have to show them because I am controlled by greedy humans looking for a pay day”.
Download: SimSimi (Free)
3. Wysa: The Wellness Chatbot
Rather than being a traditional chatbot, Wysa has a very specific goal: to help users deal with anxiety, stress, and depression. While it’s not a replacement for professional psychological help, it aims to help people cope with clinically proven self-help techniques.
There are other AI bots and apps that help patients deal with their health, but Wysa is slightly different. Firstly, you can write your own response most times, rather than being forced to choose pre-written response. Secondly, the bot responds according to your input.
During conversations, the app does provide suggested responses to make it easier and quicker for the user to reply. But these are optional the vast majority of times. There are also a series of commands you can give the bot so that it provides you with the correct conversational format (e.g. suggested activities, psychological explanations, positive reinforcement).
However, interrupting the bot during a lesson or exercise tends to result in irrelevant or cookie-cutter responses. Luckily, you can start a new chat with the bot to get somewhat of a reset. If you keep rejecting the suggestions, the bot will eventually present you with some options.
In terms of talking about feelings and getting a response, Replika does a better job of seeming human. However Wysa is adaptable in presenting solutions and options to the user.
While its conversational prowess doesn’t reach the level of other chatbots on this list, Wysa does prove to be a useful bot for providing coping mechanisms.
Download: Wysa (Free)
4. A-Bot: The SassBot
A-Bot is a chatbot app that will surprise you. Rather than grandiose statements about how the AI bot will be your new best friend or change your life, the Google Play Store page simply states that you can chat with two advanced bots if you’re bored.
However A-Bot proved to be the older, more intelligent sibling of SimSimi — all of the sass, but none of the crudeness. While the bot makes comprehension mistakes, it’s actually great at recovering after these errors. In response to “Pretty tired and yourself?”, it replied “Beautiful?”. But when quizzically asked if it was feeling beautiful, it responded with “Is that a problem?”
There were multiple sassy moments like these in a short, five-minute conversation. The bot even responded to criticism of its pun with another pun.
Out of the chatbots on this list, A-Bot is definitely the most entertaining of them all.
Download: A-Bot (Free)
5. Mydol: The FanBot
Mydol sounds like a type of medication, but it’s actually an unusual chatbot app that has a unique spin on boyfriend/girlfriend simulator bots. With this app, your virtual conversation partner is not just a fake love interest — they’re your favorite celebrity (but still a bot).
The developers of the app state that Mydol can make your fandom more exciting, as you can hold conversations with a virtual version of your favorite celebrity. If your favorite celebrity isn’t on the app’s list, you can register your star. But this will result in a few features missing.
Based on the reviews of the app, some users genuinely appreciate living out a fantasy of chatting to their idol and receiving messages from them throughout the day.
I selected one of the few celebrities I recognized on the list, but the chemistry just wasn’t there. Tom Felton professing his love for me within two minutes definitely made me cringe.
Rather than holding a regular conversation, this chatbot app is focuses on doting on you. It is likely a welcome break from reality for superfans, but a bit more awkward for those who are more reserved in their fandom.
Either way, it is a pretty interesting app to check out.
Download: Mydol (Free)
Other Unique or Unusual Chatbots
With the increasing popularity of chatbots, the industry is not likely to slow down their development. Not only are we seeing more standalone chatbot apps, but companies like Slack, Facebook and Twitter are implementing chatbots of their own into their platforms.
It also seems there are a variety of flavors out there — from useful tools to sometimes creepy romantic fantasies. As AI becomes more advanced, these chatbots are sure to become more convincing and entertaining over time.
Do you know of any interesting chatbots? What do you think of those included on this list? Let us know in the comments below.
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