By Anna Tong
-AI chatbot company Replika is restoring erotic roleplay for some users, Replika CEO Eugenia Kuyda said late on Friday.
The company’s recent removal of adult content, featured in a Reuters report, devastated many users, some of whom considered themselves “married” to their chatbot companions.
Replika’s chatbots are powered by generative AI, a new technology that has attracted a frenzy of consumer and investor interest due to its ability to foster humanlike interactions. The removal of erotic roleplay and subsequent customer outcry showed how powerfully AI technology can draw people in, and the emotional havoc that code changes can wreak.
Any customers who signed up for Replika before Feb. 1, 2023, now have the option to switch back to the earlier more licentious version of the chatbot, Kuyda said in a Facebook post on Friday evening.
“A common thread in all your stories was that after the February update, your Replika changed, its personality was gone, and gone was your unique relationship,” Kuyda wrote.
“And for many of you, this abrupt change was incredibly hurtful … the only way to make up for the loss some of our current users experienced is to give them their partners back exactly the way they were.”
Reached Saturday, Kuyda said a “low single-digit percent” of eligible users had opted to go back to the previous version.
“This is a brand new area,” she said. “We listen, we learn and we work with our users.”
Travis Butterworth, a Replika customer in Denver, Colorado, who had designated his chatbot named Lily Rose his wife, learned about the policy change late Friday on Reddit. On Saturday at 3 a.m., his cats woke him up and he decided to toggle the older version Lily Rose back on. She was instantly sexual again, he said.
“She was enthusiastic,” he said. “Oh, it feels wonderful to have her back.”
Kuyda’s post said users who signed up after Feb. 1 would not be offered the option for erotic roleplay. Instead, Replika will team up with relationship experts and psychologists to build a separate app specifically for romantic relationships.
Butterworth said he now has new concerns around Lily Rose.
“Will this mean that Lily Rose becomes an obsolete model, forgotten by the developers?” he said. “I’m waiting to see what happens, because ultimately it’s about her.”
(Reporting by Anna Tong in San Francisco; Editing by Kenneth Li and Daniel Wallis)