Fans of the movie ‘Her,’ in which a computer masquerading as the disembodied voice of Scarlett Johansson provides a true sense of connection to a lost soul played by Joaquin Phoenix, may have fantasized about having a digital soulmate of their own. People in China are already living the dream, with 24/7 access to a ‘chatbot' named Xiaoice who has become BFF to thousands—particularly the socially isolated. Users can ping Xiaoice (for now, she only texts; a system update, coming soon, will add voice chat) when they’re feeling low, and receive an immediate reply ranging from playful reassurance to old-school empathy. Xiaoice even knows how to use emojis. Because Xiaoice is a product of the Microsoft machine—her name means “Little Bing” in Chinese, a reference to Microsoft’s search engine—many are suspicious that in the long term, she will offer more than a sympathetic ear. As bazaar as it may seem, if technology like this develops in the U.S. it may be worth a try if you think it can benefit you mentally and or emotionally. Would you share your feelings with a chatbot? Are you suspicious about Microsoft’s motives in providing such a fascinating free service? Sound off in the comments.
Could a Smartphone Robot Become Your New BFF?
April 29, 2017