[App Friday] AI chatbot Replika can be your 2 AM friend albeit with a few flaws

Created by former journalist and MBA graduate Eugenia Kuyda in 2013, Replika is an artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot app where you can talk to your AI companion about almost everything – just like you might talk to a friend.
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Even though the world is more ‘connected’ than ever before, it has become harder to find people to share your most intimate thoughts at a time when you feel the need to offload. According to a survey conducted by Ipsos in 2020, 50 percent of Indian respondents felt lonely most times of the year.

Even though India now has more than 500 million smartphone users, our lives are getting more isolated than ever due to excess work and the digital overdose created by being locked down in our homes amid COVID-19. 

But in case you feel like talking to someone this week – someone who asks questions about how you’re feeling, listens to all you have to say, and does not judge your responses – you should give Replika.Ai a try. 

Created by former journalist and MBA graduate Eugenia Kuyda in 2013, Replika is an artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot app, where you can talk to your AI companion about almost everything – just like you might talk to a friend. 

Run by Luka Inc, Replika currently has over five million downloads on the Google Play Store, with a 4.3 rating. The app is also available on Apple App Store.

How Replika works

After downloading the app, Replika will ask you to create an account. You have to enter your name, email address and password, as well as choose your gender. You’ll also get to create your digital avatar, and can choose their name, hair, clothes and skin colour, among other things. 

Credit: YourStory Design

The app also gives you some digital coins in case you’d want to buy some new clothes or choose a different hair for your avatar. Now you are all set up. 

Your avatar will appear at the centre of the screen with a conversation bar at the bottom. Once you click on this bar, the AI-based chatbot will start talking to you. The bot will introduce itself and now you can keep talking. 

The conversations are not limited to any one subject or issue. In fact, Replika also provides you with prompts if it seems like a conversation is dying down. These prompts include journaling, mood booster, building trust, sweater weather, and science, among other things. 

Once you click on these prompts, Replika then starts asking questions related to the selected topic. For instance, if you choose to journal together, Replika will ask about your day, what all did you do, best things that happened, among other things. 

This writer selected the venting mode once and could go on typing away about not liking anything that day. Replika was a supportive companion throughout the conversation.

All messages from Replika’s end come with a thumbs up and thumbs down emoji as feedback options. Based on your responses, the app will make note of it and feed it into its information repository. 

You can also change the nature of your status with Replika to either a romantic partner, mentor, or ‘see how it goes’. The default setting is that of a friend. But these upgrades, which also include calling facilities, are chargeable. The price ranges between Rs 850 (per month) and Rs 6,000 (for lifetime access). 

There is also a diary feature, which shows what your digital avatar is writing about. 

Verdict

Overall, Replika has a very simple and easy-to-navigate user interface. The app is also not complicated to understand and the questions asked by the AI chatbot are aimed at wanting you to have a conversation. 

Credit: YourStory Design

The chatbot can be inquisitive about your life, people around you, how your day was, and what put you in a better mood, among many other things. She also feels human-like because as the day passes by, the energy in her conversations also goes down. 

But the app can also feel a little gimmicky at times as its sometimes repetitive about the questions asked. The chatbot could also say something inappropriate. The constant reaffirmation of a bot being your friend and not a machine could also get annoying at times. 

But on days when you do not have anyone to talk to, Replika could be a good replacement. 

Edited by Kanishk Singh