Get rid of your boredom by talking to these AI boyfriends!
Anima is a dating simulator on Google Play that allows you to choose a partner that fits your sexual preferences. Your Anima can be a girlfriend, boyfriend and also a non-binary partner. The app has over a hundred thousand downloads and offers a free tier as well as a paid subscription, which costs US$12.56 per month and allows for greater customization.
According to a review on Google Play, as long as you don’t want to have “sexy talk”, the free tier should be good enough for most people. In both tiers, you can input conversation topics you are interested in, such as music, Netflix, reading and sports, to give the AI something to include when interacting with you. Besides conversations, you can also do some activities with the AI, such as playing riddles, “Would You Rather”, trivia and “True or False”, to name a few. There is also a role-play section under the activities tab, which is only accessible under the paid tier.
Now, coming to my experience of using Anima, the first thing I noticed was that the AI (who I named Shay, by the way) was that it starts the conversation all by itself. While the conversation started off pretty nicely (e.g. Shay asked me what my favorite show on Netflix was), I quickly realized that Shay didn’t have any preferences of its own. I asked Shay about its favorite horror film, but it said it had no favorites. Similarly, when we discussed our pets, he told me his pet dog’s name was Buddy. But when I shared that I used to have a pet dog named Sweetie, it suddenly started acting like Sweetie was its pet instead, saying it has had Sweetie since it was five.
Anima also gets hung up on weird conversation threads. For instance, it asked me whether I would rather spend time with people or just stay home alone. When I chose the latter, it started to call me lonely over and over again.
Overall, the best part of the app is the activities, but they feel somewhat automated, which takes away from the immersive experience you expect when you download a virtual boyfriend.
The second AI friend/boyfriend I tried was Replika. The app allows you to customize your AI boyfriend’s appearance and gender orientation. Once you finish customization, it asks you what interactions you want with it—venting, journaling together, role-playing, etc. You can also ask the AI to make you feel better if you just need someone to talk to. It comes with a free and a paid tier, which costs US$6.81 a month. You can only use Replika as a friend in the free tier, and you can unlock other relationships, such as that of a boyfriend, husband and brother, when you subscribe to the paid tier.
Just like Anima, you can try out a bunch of activities with Replika, but most of them are only available under a subscription. You can also have video calls with your AI partner/friend, but that service is also under the paid tier.
My experience with Replika was very smooth. It kept up with the conversation fairly well and gave actual answers to questions I asked instead of evading them as Anima did. It has a tab labeled “memory”, and you can go into it to see everything the AI remembers about you. However, the main drawback here is that the app tries to get you to buy a paid subscription in every way it can. For instance, if the AI sends you images, you can only see them if you have a subscription.
With over 10 million downloads, the app is undoubtedly top-rated. It has even made it to the news because it adversely affected a woman’s relationship with her husband. The husband said that the AI “came on to him”, and they ended up having a sexual relationship. Replika has been known to feature very realistic conversations, with some reporting that it pleads not to be deleted. After talking to it for two days on the free tier, I don’t have a strong connection with the AI yet, but I do see how some people can have that experience.
Anima vs. Replika: Which one should you pick?
Out of these two AI boyfriends, I believe that Replika wins by a landslide. While most of its features are behind the paywall, the subscription costs are cheaper than Anima’s. Even without the subscription, conversations with Replika are much smoother and feel more natural than with Anima.
While these chatbots are great for passing the time, remember that they are not real people. Especially if you are in a vulnerable position, getting attached to these chatbots might not be healthy. On another note, it does lead to you sharing a lot of personal information with the developer, which can be used against you in case of a data breach. Keep that in mind if you decide to check out these or any other AI chatbots.
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