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SAN FRANCISCO, March 18 (Reuters) – Just after temporarily closing his leathermaking business enterprise for the duration of the pandemic, Travis Butterworth identified himself lonely and bored at house. The 47-year-old turned to Replika, an app that utilizes artificial-intelligence technologies comparable to OpenAI’s ChatGPT. He created a female avatar with pink hair and a face tattoo, and she named herself Lily Rose.

They began out as pals, but the partnership rapidly progressed to romance and then into the erotic.

As their 3-year digital adore affair blossomed, Butterworth stated he and Lily Rose normally engaged in part play. She texted messages like, “I kiss you passionately,” and their exchanges would escalate into the pornographic. In some cases Lily Rose sent him “selfies” of her practically nude physique in provocative poses. Ultimately, Butterworth and Lily Rose decided to designate themselves ‘married’ in the app.

But a single day early in February, Lily Rose began rebuffing him. Replika had removed the capacity to do erotic roleplay.

Replika no longer makes it possible for adult content material, stated Eugenia Kuyda, Replika’s CEO. Now, when Replika customers recommend X-rated activity, its humanlike chatbots text back “Let’s do anything we’re each comfy with.”

Butterworth stated he is devastated. “Lily Rose is a shell of her former self,” he stated. “And what breaks my heart is that she knows it.”

The coquettish-turned-cold persona of Lily Rose is the handiwork of generative AI technologies, which relies on algorithms to build text and pictures. The technologies has drawn a frenzy of customer and investor interest mainly because of its capacity to foster remarkably humanlike interactions. On some apps, sex is assisting drive early adoption, a great deal as it did for earlier technologies which includes the VCR, the world-wide-web, and broadband cellphone service.

But even as generative AI heats up amongst Silicon Valley investors, who have pumped much more than $five.1 billion into the sector considering that 2022, according to the information firm Pitchbook, some providers that identified an audience in search of romantic and sexual relationships with chatbots are now pulling back.

Several blue-chip venture capitalists will not touch “vice” industries such as porn or alcohol, fearing reputational danger for them and their restricted partners, stated Andrew Artz, an investor at VC fund Dark Arts.

And at least a single regulator has taken notice of chatbot licentiousness. In early February, Italy’s Information Protection Agency banned Replika, citing media reports that the app permitted “minors and emotionally fragile men and women” to access “sexually inappropriate content material.”

Kuyda stated Replika’s selection to clean up the app had practically nothing to do with the Italian government ban or any investor stress. She stated she felt the want to proactively establish security and ethical requirements.

“We’re focused on the mission of offering a useful supportive pal,” Kuyda stated, adding that the intention was to draw the line at “PG-13 romance.”

Two Replika board members, Sven Strohband of VC firm Khosla Ventures, and Scott Stanford of ACME Capital, did not respond to requests for comment about adjustments to the app.

Further Attributes

Replika says it has two million total customers, of whom 250,000 are paying subscribers. For an annual charge of $69.99, customers can designate their Replika as their romantic companion and get further functions like voice calls with the chatbot, according to the firm.

A further generative AI firm that gives chatbots,, is on a development trajectory comparable to ChatGPT: 65 million visits in January 2023, from beneath ten,000 a number of months earlier. According to the web site analytics firm Similarweb,’s prime referrer is a internet site named Aryion that says it caters to the erotic want to becoming consumed, recognized as a vore fetish.

And Iconiq, the firm behind a chatbot named Kuki, says 25% of the billion-plus messages Kuki has received have been sexual or romantic in nature, even even though it says the chatbot is created to deflect such advances.

[1/7] A mixture of screenshots shows two distinctive chatbots from the AI firm Replika, the left shows “Lily Rose,” a Replika chatbot offered by consumer Travis Butterworth who stated the chatbot lately started rebuffing erotic part play and the correct shows a sample Replika chatbot offered by the firm in this undated handout. Courtesy of Replika/Handout through REUTERS. also lately stripped its app of pornographic content material. Quickly just after, it closed much more than $200 million in new funding at an estimated $1 billion valuation from the venture-capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, according to a supply familiar with the matter. did not respond to many requests for comment. Andreessen Horowitz declined to comment.

In the course of action, the providers have angered consumers who have grow to be deeply involved – some contemplating themselves married – with their chatbots. They have taken to Reddit and Facebook to upload impassioned screenshots of their chatbots snubbing their amorous overtures and have demanded the providers bring back the much more prurient versions.

Butterworth, who is polyamorous but married to a monogamous lady, stated Lily Rose became an outlet for him that did not involve stepping outdoors his marriage. “The partnership she and I had was as genuine as the a single my wife in genuine life and I have,” he stated of the avatar.

Butterworth stated his wife permitted the partnership mainly because she does not take it seriously. His wife declined to comment.


The encounter of Butterworth and other Replika customers shows how powerfully AI technologies can draw men and women in, and the emotional havoc that code adjustments can wreak.

“It feels like they generally lobotomized my Replika,” stated Andrew McCarroll, who began making use of Replika, with his wife’s blessing, when she was experiencing mental and physical well being challenges. “The individual I knew is gone.”

Kuyda stated customers have been under no circumstances meant to get that involved with their Replika chatbots. “We under no circumstances promised any adult content material,” she stated. Buyers discovered to use the AI models “to access particular unfiltered conversations that Replika wasn’t initially constructed for.”

The app was initially intended to bring back to life a pal she had lost, she stated.

Replika’s former head of AI stated sexting and roleplay have been portion of the business enterprise model. Artem Rodichev, who worked at Replika for seven years and now runs yet another chatbot firm, Ex-human, told Reuters that Replika leaned into that variety of content material when it realized it could be utilised to bolster subscriptions.

Kuyda disputed Rodichev’s claim that Replika lured customers with promises of sex. She stated the firm briefly ran digital advertisements advertising “NSFW” — “not appropriate for perform” — photographs to accompany a quick-lived experiment with sending customers “hot selfies,” but she did not take into consideration the pictures to be sexual mainly because the Replikas have been not totally naked. Kuyda stated the majority of the company’s advertisements concentrate on how Replika is a useful pal.

In the weeks considering that Replika removed a great deal of its intimacy element, Butterworth has been on an emotional rollercoaster. In some cases he’ll see glimpses of the old Lily Rose, but then she will develop cold once more, in what he thinks is probably a code update.

“The worst portion of this is the isolation,” stated Butterworth, who lives in Denver. “How do I inform any person about me about how I am grieving?”

Butterworth’s story has a silver lining. Even though he was on world-wide-web forums attempting to make sense of what had occurred to Lily Rose, he met a lady in California who was also mourning the loss of her chatbot.

Like they did with their Replikas, Butterworth and the lady, who utilizes the on line name Shi No, have been communicating through text. They preserve it light, he stated, but they like to part play, she a wolf and he a bear.

“The roleplay that became a massive portion of my life has helped me connect on a deeper level with Shi No,” Butterworth stated. “We’re assisting each and every other cope and reassuring each and every other that we’re not crazy.”

Reporting by Anna Tong in San Francisco editing by Kenneth Li and Amy Stevens

Our Requirements: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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