Remember that episode of Black Mirror where the main character buys an android pre-installed with an artificial intelligence algorithm which simulates her dead boyfriend’s personality? Well, a new paper from the Shree Devi Institute of Technology, India explores how to bring that to our own, slightly less grim, timeline.
The research, conducted by Shriya Devadiga and Bhakthi Shetty, focused primarily on Replika AI, which is an app that creates a simulation of the user’s personality that other users can interact with, much as they would with a real person.
According to the authors, they got the basic idea from Eugenia Kuyda – the founder of Replika AI – who came up with the app in hopes of creating a “private perceptual world” filled with people’s thoughts, feelings, beliefs, experiences, and memories.
Once a person dies, he or she will leave a digital trail of text messages, photos and other tidbits which friends and family may forget for a while, but are likely to come back to in order to reminisce. “So our main objective was to explore ways of relieving the pain of this loss, at least bitwise,” said Devadiga.
In the study, the authors used Replika AI to create AI-powered chat-bots using collections of digital memories and accounts of the relevant person’s friends and close ones.
“An invite link is sent to users, which, when opened, allows communication with a replica of a deceased person. Using all of their past online communications and social media profiles, the service creates a new virtual human, and you just start talking to them, like you would on WhatsApp or any social media,” explained Devadiga.
The end result proposed by the authors could be a 3D digital avatar which acts like a deceased loved one, and has access to data stored on the cloud, or perhaps even a humanoid robot, which would be operational within a 25 m radius from the activation point.
Despite their enthusiasm, the authors fully understand that an imitation might not replace the real thing, and, therefore, alongside proposing further research into extending the range of the robot’s operation, suggest that we might also need to better understand the psychological implications of rolling such technologies to the market.