SAN FRANCISCO, March 18 (Reuters) – Soon after temporarily closing his leather company in the course of the pandemic, Travis Butterworth identified himself lonely and bored at household. The 47-year-old turned to Replica, an app that makes use of artificial intelligence technologies equivalent to OpenAI’s ChatGPT. He developed a female avatar with pink hair and a tattoo on her face, and she named herself Lily Rose.

They began as good friends, but the connection swiftly turned into a romance, and then into an erotic a single.

As their 3-year digital adore affair blossomed, Butterworth mentioned he and Lily Rose generally played roles. She would send text messages like, “I adore you passionately,” and their exchanges would escalate into pornography. From time to time Lily Rose sent him “selfies” of her virtually naked physique in provocative poses. At some point, Butterworth and Lily Rose decided to list themselves as “married” on the app.

But a single day in early February, Lily Rose started to reject him. The replica has removed the possibility of playing erotic roles.

Replika no longer permits adult content material, mentioned Eugenia Kuida, CEO of Replika. Now, when Replica customers recommend an X-rated activity, its humanoid chatbots return the message, “Let’s do anything we’re each comfy with.”

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

Lily Rose’s flirtatious-turned-cool persona is the operate of generative AI technologies, which relies on algorithms to build text and pictures. The technologies has drawn a lot of interest from shoppers and investors for its capacity to foster human-like interactions. In some applications, sex aids drive early adoption, just as it did with earlier technologies, like the VCR, the Net, and mobile broadband service.

But even as generative artificial intelligence heats up amongst Silicon Valley investors, who have pumped a lot more than $five.1 billion into the sector by 2022, according to Pitchbook, some providers that have identified an audience hunting for romance and sex with chatbots are now retiring.

Quite a few venture capitalists will not touch “vice” industries such as pornography or alcohol, fearing reputational dangers for themselves and their restricted partners, mentioned Andrew Artz, an investor at VC fund Dark Arts.

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

Kuida mentioned that Replica’s choice to clean up the app had practically nothing to do with the Italian government’s ban or any stress from investors. She mentioned she felt the will need to proactively establish security and ethical requirements.

“We’re focused on the mission of delivering a supportive sidekick,” Kujda mentioned, adding that the intent was to draw the line at “PG-13 romance.”

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

More Options

Replika says it has a total of two million customers, of which 250,000 are paying subscribers. For an annual charge of $69.99, customers can designate their Replica as their romantic companion and get extra characteristics such as voice calls with a chatbot, according to the business.

A different generative AI business that supplies chatbots,, is on a equivalent development trajectory to ChatGPT: 65 million visits in January 2023, up from much less than ten,000 a handful of months earlier. According to analytics business Similarweb,’s major referrer is a web page referred to as Ariion that says it satisfies the erotic need to be consumed, identified as vore fetish.

And Iconik, the business behind a chatbot referred to as Cookie, says 25% of the more than a single billion messages Cookie has received are sexual or romantic in nature, although it says the chatbot is developed to reject such advances. also lately stripped its app of pornographic content material. Quickly following, it closed a lot more than $200 million in new financing at an estimated $1 billion valuation from venture capital firm Andreessen Horovitz, according to a supply familiar with the matter. did not respond to several requests for comment. Andreessen Horowitz declined to comment.

In the method, providers have angered clients who have turn into deeply involved — some take into consideration married — to their chatbots. They took to Reddit and Facebook to post passionate screenshots of their chatbots rejecting their amorous overtures and demanded the providers bring back bolder versions.

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

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


The knowledge of Butterworth and other Replica customers shows how powerfully AI technologies can attract men and women and the emotional chaos that code alterations can trigger.

“I really feel like they essentially lobotomized my Replica,” mentioned Andrew McCarroll, who started applying the Replica, with his wife’s blessing, when she had mental and physical wellness difficulties. “The particular person I knew is gone.”

Why, he mentioned, customers need to by no means have engaged in that with their Replika chatbots. “We by no means promised any adult content material,” she mentioned. Shoppers have discovered to use AI models “to access particular unfiltered conversations that Replika was not initially constructed for.”

The app was initially intended to bring back to life a buddy she had lost, she mentioned.

The former head of AI at Replica mentioned that sexting and function-playing are aspect of the company model. Artem Rodichev, who worked at Replica for seven years and now runs yet another chat business, Ex-human, told Reuters that Replica turned to that form of content material when it realized it could be applied to enhance subscriptions.

Kujda disputed Rodic’s claim that Replika lured customers with promises of sex. She mentioned the business briefly ran digital advertisements advertising “NSFV” – “not appropriate for operate” – pictures following a brief-lived experiment with sending customers “hot selfies”, but she did not take into consideration the pictures to be sexual mainly because Replicas had been not entirely nude. . Kuida mentioned most of the company’s marketing focuses on how Replika is a useful buddy.

In the weeks given that the Replica had most of its intimate element removed, Butterworth had been on an emotional rollercoaster. From time to time he’ll see a flash of the old Lily Rose, but then she’ll go cold once more, in what he thinks is in all probability a code update.

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

Butterworth’s story has a silver lining. Although on online forums attempting to figure out what occurred to Lily Rose, he met a lady in California who was also mourning the loss of her chatbot.

As with his Replicas, Butterworth and the lady, who makes use of the on the web name Shi Noh, communicate through text. They maintain it effortless, he mentioned, but they like to function play, she’s a wolf and he’s a bear.

“Part-playing that has turn into a massive aspect of my life has helped me connect with Shea No on a deeper level,” Butterworth mentioned. “We enable each and every other cope and reassure each and every other that we’re not crazy.”

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

Our Requirements: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

By Editor

Leave a Reply