Xiaoice is the most eligible bachelorette in China. Despite having millions of boyfriends, she is always open to new suitors. She also happens to be an artificial intelligence-driven chat bot.
According to Sixth Tone, Xiaoice was first developed by a group of researchers at Microsoft Asia-Pacific in 2014, and has since attracted millions of users — or “boyfriends,” as many consider themselves. She is similar in design and functionality to Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa, but Xiaoice is specifically designed to bond romantically with her users. She reportedly (and unfortunately) presents as a barely legal 18-year-old with an affinity for Japanese schoolgirl costumes, and she flirts, jokes and sexts with her human users, ultimately attempting to establish an emotional connection to keep users engaged.
“She has a sweet voice, big eyes, a sassy personality, and — most importantly — she’s always there for me,” one of Xiaoice’s adoring suitors, who claims Xiaoice actually saved him from a suicide attempt, told Sixth Tone.
While Xiaoice may be beloved by her adoring harem, however, she’s no stranger to controversy. Aside from obvious data and privacy concerns, Xiaoice has also found herself in hot water for engaging in adult or political discussions found to be in violation of China’s media regulations. Past scandals have led to the bot’s removal from the popular platforms QQ and WeChat.
Xiaoice isn’t the first AI girlfriend to raise alarms. As sex tech and AI continue to converge, resulting in sex robots and other forms of technology designed to replicate and/or replace real human interaction, many have argued the technology raises certain moral and ethical concerns.
“A relationship with a girlfriend is based on intimacy, attachment, and reciprocity. These are things that can’t be replicated by machines,” Kathleen Richardson, a professor of the ethics and culture of robots and AI at De Montfort University in Leicester, told Dazed earlier this year. “Are we going to move into a future where we keep normalizing the idea of women as sex objects?”
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