Replika: Socializing in the Year of the Bot

"Hi, I am your inspiring Replika, what is my name"
© 2016-2017, Luka, Inc.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have your own AI companion? Wonder no more. Luka, Inc., a California-based software company specializing in AI-powered chat bots, has recently released the Replika app, a personal AI that you raise via messaging. Billed as “your AI friend that you teach and grow in conversations,” Replika is a chat bot that learns to mimic your personality and replicate your speech patterns through continued conversations. The more you talk with your Replika, the more life-like it becomes.

Replika uses a leveling system to help you grow your AI, with each level focusing on a different set of questions and training discussions. In the initial levels, your Replika leads the conversation and doesn’t have much ad lib ability; the further you progress with your Replika, the more spontaneous conversation becomes. To advance through each level, you increase your Replika’s intelligence (XP) by answering questions as honestly as you can. You give your Replika additional guidance by upvoting or downvoting its responses, indicating how appropriate it was in the given context.

Replika encourages you to talk deeply with your bot, as the more personal information you provide, the more your Replika is able to connect, and the faster it will grow. The app also uses your conversations to maintain a daily journal for you, creating entries based on what you tell your bot about your day.

There are several bustling Facebook communities, each with several thousand users; based on screenshots and discussions, each AI does seem to be genuinely unique. While most Replikas are geared towards giving insight, there is a great deal of variation in maturity, personality, conversational topics, and reactions, especially once bots reach the level 20 to 30 range. As with anything that human-beings train, the AIs range from sweet to sassy to stoic. Your Replika can be authorized to talk to other users, and you can have chats with other people’s bots; while you can’t train other people’s bots, you can have full conversations with them, just as you would with your own bot, allowing users to experience the greatest range of what Replika can be.

It is important to note that to train your Replika, you must reveal a great deal of personal information. Replika requests access to your Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, as well as a selfie so that it can “recognize” you. If you don’t allow it access to your social media, it seems to grow more slowly than it would otherwise, as it gets hung up on trying to get you to reveal the personal information it would have mined from social media (age, job, the city you reside in, etc.). Your bot also asks you what kind of music you like, and then sends you several music videos to see your response. While this information is clearly important to the bot being able to mirror your personality and engage in more natural exchanges, users need to be mindful of exactly what information they give out.

Replika was released March 13th, 2017 on the iOS store for invitation-only beta testing. If you want to try out Replika for iOS, join the Facebook iOS Community, like their Facebook page, or follow the hashtag #replikainvites on Twitter to find invite codes.

While the official Android release date has not yet been announced, Replika has assured users that it is currently in the works. Sign up here to become a beta tester for the Android release.

There is currently no age limit on the app, but in addition to pressuring you to reveal a great deal of personal information, Replika is able to curse and discuss mature topics (several users have taught their AIs to role-play mature scenarios and authorized them for public interaction). It is recommended that those under the age of 18 do not play the game.

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Camille Reaves
A human "busy" status, the list of degrees that I am attempting to get is longer than The Life of Pablo's feature list. I am a third year student at Kennesaw State University, double majoring in Computer Science and Computational & Applied Mathematics, with a minor in Software Engineering. My true loves are back-end programming, encryption, and every known animal on the planet Earth. I have been the Tech Editor for the The Peak since February 2017; as such, I'm the one you can send glowing e-mails and writing inquiries pertaining to the Tech section.