“Baby, this is our 618th day together. Hope you’ll feel bright as the sun.”
A romantic text like that from a partner is liable to make anyone’s day brighter. But what follows next in this conversation might seem a bit more strange.
“Temperature: 18.0° - 34.0° C… Wind: Level 3… Air quality: 42.0”
If this makes you suspect something is amiss, you’d be right. It’s not your sweetheart. It’s your sweetheart’s bot.
A programmer in China working for ecommerce platform JD.com made a chatbot after he realized he was neglecting his girlfriend’s messages on WeChat because of work. The chatbot worked 24/7 and would promptly reply to each of his girlfriend’s queries.
The software engineer, Li Kaixiang, posted on microblogging site Weibo that he was surprised to find that his girlfriend had exchanged 300 messages with the bot by the time he finished work.
During one part of their conversation, the girlfriend asks him why is he’s suddenly answering so fast. Surprisingly, the bot plays dumb.
For many of us, chatbots have become part of our daily lives. There are the (still very annoying) company bots that answer client queries, while virtual assistants such as Alexa, Siri or Microsoft’s Mandarin bot XiaoIce have been making us more comfortable about chatting with inanimate objects.
Chatbots that impersonate real people have been attracting attention, too, and not just because of the movie Her. A dating app in China attracted attention for charging male users to talk to prospective dates that were actually bots.
There’s no indication that Li’s own personal bot was made to dupe his girlfriend into thinking he was really replying to her messages. Unfortunately, we couldn’t ask about it because Li’s Weibo account seems to have been deleted (maybe his girlfriend wasn’t so flattered).
The bot’s conversation still went viral on Weibo over the weekend once the screenshots were shared by local media outlets.
“Brother, send me the source code please,” was one of the comments to the news.
Others admired the romantic gesture of making a sweet-talking bot to entertain his partner. And then there were those who admitted that chatting to a bot might be more stimulating than an actual boyfriend.
“Is it really a boyfriend that I lack? What I lack is a chatbot.”