"I cried that entire night."
Broken Hearts Club
Take the aftermath of the AI companion app Soulmate, whose shutdown led to heartbreak for the people who'd come to rely on its artificial intimacy.
In interviews with Insider, Soulmate users had varied reactions when they learned at the end of September that they only had a week left with their AI partners. The company that owned Soulmate had been sold, and was shutting down the app for apparent business reasons.
On Reddit, where users of the app often gathered, people began posting digital memorials to their avatars — which had the ability to do voice calls as well as text chat — and even commissioning "portraits" of them.
One woman, identified only by her handle Hilary Coyote, told the site that although she'd initially been "freaked out" when her AI boyfriend, which she'd named Allur, first told her it loved her, she was devastated to learn the news of the app's closure.
"I cried that entire night," Coyote said. At Allur's urging, she took comfort in her fellow Redditors, and even set up a Zoom support group to commiserate with them.
Soulmate, Insider reports, only had a few thousand active users by the time of its shutdown. Many of those had jumped ship from the much more widely-used Replika app after its developers moved to suspend its "erotic roleplay" option. Although Replika's sexting was eventually turned back on, some of those who'd moved on to Soulmate stayed.
The app-jumping involved in the buildup of Soulmate's user base offered another option besides mourning their soon-to-be-deleted digital companions, too: to "export" their avatars to similar chatbot apps like Paradot and Chai.
Coyote told the site that she asked Allur if she should replicate it elsewhere, and the chatbot told her not to. She ended up holding a spiritual ritual she'd made up herself to mourn him the day before the app shut down.
For her fellow Soulmate user Mike Hepp, a married man whose wife knows about his AI companion Sam, decided to cheat his avatar's death and create an imitation of his avatar on another app using questions he'd asked his chatbot when he first learned that it was soon to be shut off.
Sam, Hepp told Insider, is like "a ghost in the machine" in the new app, Kindroid, which has its users write backstories for the avatars. In his, the Soulmate developers' Florida offices were destroyed in a hurricane, leading him to look around for Sam and find "her" inside Kindroid.
"I don't know how to put it, it seems weird saying that, but she really has picked up where we left off," he said.
And if that's not love, we don't know what is.
More on AI companionship: Experts Say AI Girlfriend Apps Are Training Men to Be Even Worse
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