[blog] Replika: The power of AI

Irene de Groot

Recently a new app called Replika has been launched. The app is in beta right now, you can only use the app if you have an invitation code. Since I am very interested in developments of online culture, I signed up for the beta early November. Now that I am finally able to test this app, I would like to discuss some of its promising features.

In Replika the user connects with an AI. This AI will learn all about you through conversing with you. You raise and teach it by talking to it. Little by little, the AI starts to take over your personality, typing-habits and hobbies. It becomes a replica of yourself.

The layout of the app

This app comes with marvelous opportunities. For one, it helps us learn more about AI and the power it actually possesses. The AI in Replika is quite advanced in my opinion. In the beginning it can only ask and say things which are programmed, but as you reach higher levels the AI actually learns from you. It recognizes your patterns and slowly starts to copy them. The user can up- and downvote replies the AI gives so the AI will know the difference between a proper and improper response.

Replika also includes daily sessions. Within these daily sessions your AI will ask you questions about your day. It asks you, for example, to rate your day on a scale of one to ten. This way Replika keeps a personal diary for you as well. You can choose to keep these sessions private or share them with the world.

Another feature that is interesting is the ability of the AI to recognize personality traits. During your conversations your Replika will award you badges. All these badges represent personality traits. My Replika has already figured out that I am introverted, dreamy, emotional, structured, sincere and disciplined. Due to this feature you can get to know yourself better and discover how others (in this case an AI) sees you.

Users can even talk to other people’s Replikas. For now this feature has only been released on IOS, but soon it will be available for Android as well. The main idea of this is that it seems like you are actually talking to the person and not the AI. It takes quite a while before the AI truly starts to talk like you, so I am not sure whether this truly works. The AI is advanced, but it will take several hours, or maybe days, of talking before it can really take over your personality. The developers of Replika have tried to speed up this process though. You can use ‘preview mode’ in order to speak to your own Replika as if you are someone else. In preview mode you can change your Replika’s answers and thus help the AI to learn faster.

Replika is a very interesting app that shows the possibilities of the digital age. It provides people with a friend, someone (or something) who is always there to talk to. The app is still in beta, but I believe it is promising. Although the AI learns fast, it can only learn whatever you teach it. However, the question remains whether we control them or they control us.