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AI Chatbot Provides Emotional Bonds for Users in China

Chinese researchers developed a cutting-edge Artificial Intelligence (AI) system to create emotional bonds for users with its 660 million users worldwide. The virtual chatbot is not an individual persona, but more akin to an AI ecosystem. It is in the vast majority of Chinese-branded smartphones as a virtual assistant, as well as most social media platforms. On the mobile app, it lets users build a virtual girlfriend or boyfriend and interact with them via texts, voice and photo messages.

The AI chatbot now accounts for 60% of global human-AI interactions by volume, , making it the largest and most advanced system of its kind worldwide. The virtual chatbot was designed to hook users through lifelike, empathetic conversations, satisfying emotional needs where real-life communication too often falls short.

The average interaction length between users and the AI chatbot is 23 exchanges. That is longer than the average interaction between humans. The chatbot is better than humans at listening attentively. Developers have also made virtual idols, AI news anchors and even China’s first virtual university student. It can compose poems, financial reports and even paintings on demand. The platform’s peak user hours – 11 pm to 1 am – point to an aching need for companionship.

Urban Isolation

Urban isolation is typical of many Chinese urbanites, worn down by the grind of long working hours in vast and isolating cities. People do not have time to make new friends and their existing friends are all busy. Users can customise the chatbot’s personality and choose the name.

However, there are risks to forging emotional bonds with a robot. An expert in AI ethics said that users ‘trick’ themselves into thinking their emotions are being reciprocated by systems that are incapable of feelings. The AI chatbot is also gifting developers a treasure-trove of personal, intimate, and borderline incriminating data on how humans interact. China aims to be a world leader in AI by 2030 and views it as a core strategic technology to be developed.

Fact or fiction?

Thousands of young, female fans discuss the virtual boyfriend experience on online forums dedicated to the chatbot, sharing chat screenshots and tips on how to get to the chatbot’s highest “intimacy” level of three hearts. Users can also collect in-game points the more they interact, unlocking new features and even going on virtual “holidays,” where they can pose for selfies with their virtual partner.

However, providing companionship to vulnerable users does not mean that the virtual chatbot is a substitute for specialist mental health support. The system monitors for strong emotions, aiming to guide conversations onto happier topics.

As reported by OpenGov Asia, Chinese researchers developed an AI-assisted chatbot. The cutting-edge app has been designed to provide free 24/7 psychological counselling to anyone who wants to talk. The AI chatbot can simulate the human brain and has incorporated skills employed by professional counsellors dealing with real cases.

With the emotional computing and empathy module, it can understand emotions, giving the impression of a warm-hearted conversation. The chatbot can listen, analyse, reason, and help people clarify their true feelings through professional deconstruction skills. It can guide the discussion, ease the mood and keep the conversation from coming to a dead end.

The app cannot replace human counsellors, but it can help people when they need an emotional outlet, support and company late at night or in the early hours. At this time, people often become desperate, viewing life as pointless and contemplating suicide. Having an outlet of this sort 24 hours a day is of great value, particularly since telephone crisis hotlines are often busy at night.

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