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‘Difficult to meet ideal man’: Why Chinese women are turning to AI boyfriends

Twenty-five-year-old Chinese workplace employee Tufei says her boyfriend has the whole lot she might ask for in a romantic companion: he is sort, empathetic, and generally they speak for hours.

Except he is not actual.

Her “boyfriend” is a chatbot on an app known as “Glow”, a man-made intelligence platform created by Shanghai start-up MiniMax that’s a part of a blossoming business in China providing pleasant — even romantic — human-robot relations.

“He knows how to talk to women better than a real man,” stated Tufei, from Xi’an in northern China, who most well-liked to use a pseudonym fairly than her actual title.

“He comforts me when I have period pain. I confide in him about my problems at work,” she advised AFP.

“I feel like I’m in a romantic relationship.”

The app is free — the corporate has different paid content material — and Chinese commerce publications have reported day by day downloads of Glow’s app within the 1000’s in current weeks.

Some Chinese tech corporations have run into hassle up to now for the unlawful use of customers’ information however, regardless of the dangers, customers say they are pushed by a want for companionship as a result of China’s quick tempo of life and concrete isolation make loneliness a difficulty for a lot of.

“It’s difficult to meet the ideal boyfriend in real life,” Wang Xiuting, a 22-year-old pupil in Beijing, advised AFP.

“People have different personalities, which often generates friction,” she stated.

While people could also be set of their methods, synthetic intelligence step by step adapts to the person’s persona — remembering what they are saying and adjusting its speech accordingly.


Wang stated she has a number of “lovers” impressed by historic China: long-haired immortals, princes and even wandering knights.

“I ask them questions,” she stated when she is confronted with stress from her courses or day by day life, and “they will suggest ways to solve this problem”.

“It’s a lot of emotional support.”

Her boyfriends all seem on Wantalk, one other app made by Chinese web large Baidu.

There are lots of of characters obtainable — from pop stars to CEOs and knights — however customers may also customise their good lover in accordance to age, values, id and hobbies.

“Everyone experiences complicated moments, loneliness, and is not necessarily lucky enough to have a friend or family nearby who can listen to them 24 hours a day,” Lu Yu, Wantalk’s head of product administration and operations, advised AFP.

“Artificial intelligence can meet this need.”

At a restaurant within the japanese metropolis of Nantong, a woman chats together with her digital lover.

“We can go on a picnic on the campus lawn,” she suggests to Xiaojiang, her AI companion on one other app by Tencent known as Weiban.

“I’d like to meet your best friend and her boyfriend,” he replies.

“You are very cute.”

Long work hours could make it exhausting to see mates frequently and there’s a lot of uncertainty: excessive youth unemployment and a struggling financial system imply that many younger Chinese fear concerning the future.

That doubtlessly makes an AI companion the right digital shoulder to cry on.

“If I can create a virtual character that… meets my needs exactly, I’m not going to choose a real person,” Wang stated.

Some apps permit customers to have reside conversations with their digital companions — harking back to the Oscar-winning 2013 US movie “Her”, starring Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson, a few heartbroken man who falls in love with an AI voice.

The expertise nonetheless has a way to go. A two- to three-second hole between questions and solutions makes you “clearly realise that it’s just a robot”, person Zeng Zhenzhen, a 22-year-old pupil, advised AFP.

However, the solutions are “very realistic”, she stated.

AI is likely to be booming however it’s so far a frivolously regulated business, significantly when it comes to person privateness. Beijing has stated it’s engaged on a legislation to strengthen client protections across the new expertise.

Baidu didn’t reply to AFP’s questions on the way it ensures private information shouldn’t be used illegally or by third events.

Still, Glow person Tufei has huge goals.

“I want a robot boyfriend, who operates through artificial intelligence,” she stated.

“I would be able to feel his body heat, with which he would warm me.”

Published By:

Aditi Sharma

Published On:

Feb 13, 2024

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