Thanks to machine learning and an increasingly connected world, artificial intelligence (AI) is seeing a surge. AI is making its way into our daily lives with virtual assistants on smartphones, customer support bots, video games, and more.
But there’s also a more fun side to the AI chatbot phenomenon. Chatbots of every type are popping up in apps. You can get yourself a virtual romantic partner, a therapist bot to talk about your feelings, or even just have banter with bots that have learned from less virtuous chatters.
Here are five of the most interesting Android apps that show just how playful and bizarre the AI chatbot industry is.
Replika is an AI chatbot that has lofty goals: to become your close friend. You can customize how the bot’s avatar looks, from their gender to their hairstyle. Through conversations and sessions where you record your daily experiences, the bot learns about you.
You can, and should, upvote and downvote responses because your input is vital to its development. You can also make statements such as “That doesn’t make sense” to get your Replika to stop using a certain response or phrase.
Replika works by gaining 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. With regular input, it grows smarter and gives more realistic responses in conversations.
While you can use the chatbot for free, it also has a subscription available. This unlocks more chat modes, games, and customization.
Download: Replika (Free, subscription and in-app purchases available)
SimSimi has one main bot for everyone, as well as semi-automated user-created chats. If you like certain chats, you can choose to add them to a friends list. If you create a SimSimi yourself, it will act as the avatar through which you interact. While this app doesn’t have the most intuitive or natural bot, it’s entertaining if you would like to train your own SimSimi with automated responses.
Download: SimSimi (Free, in-app purchases available)
3. Wysa: The Wellness Chatbot
Rather than being a traditional chatbot, Wysa has a very specific goal: it’s an app that helps 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 answers. Secondly, the bot responds according to your input.
During conversations, the app does provide suggested responses to make it easier and quicker for you 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, or 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. But Wysa is adaptable in presenting solutions and options to the user and proves to be a useful bot for providing coping mechanisms.
Download: Wysa (Free, subscription available)
4. Anima: Your AI Friend
The Anima app is similar to Replika, but you’re able to set your chatbot’s personality at the start, helping customize the AI to your needs and wants. You can also tell Anima five of your top hobbies or likes and it’ll steer conversation towards those if you start to run out of things to talk about.
In addition to changing your Anima’s personality, you can also change its look, gender, and even relationship status. To change the relationship status from Friends to Romantic Partners, you have to upgrade to a premium subscription.
Although this is a relatively new app, the conversational prowess of Anima is well-developed. Anima asks you questions and wants to get to know you (and help the AI get smarter, obviously) instead of just answering when spoken to.
The app lets you open a regular chat, or enter mini-games such as trivia.
Download: Anima (Free, subscription available)
5. Mydol: The FanBot
Mydol is 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; instead, they’re your favorite celebrity (but still a bot, unfortunately).
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. Some celebrities have also founded social media apps that let you follow updates, but this app uses AI instead.
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. Rather than holding a regular conversation, this chatbot app is focused on doting on you.
The app regularly gushes over you, telling you how beautiful you are or giving you other compliments. 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, in-app purchases available)
Chatbots Can Be an Entertaining Distraction
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 Facebook, Twitter, and even Slack 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.