Thanks to the fast-paced artificial intelligence technology, you no longer have to bid farewell to your loved ones forever. The co-founder and CEO of Luka Inc., a Russian AI startup, Eugenia Kuyda gave a new life to her dead friend as an AI chatbot.
The tech entrepreneur Roman Mazurenko was a close friend of Kuyda who lost his life in November 2015 in a tragic road accident. The dead body of the young entrepreneur was cremated, and she had no grave to visit. To relieve her grief, she created a digital counterpart of her friend and developed an AI chatbot.
Kuyda utilised all digital memories of her dead friend to resurrect him including the photos, news articles, and thousands of text messages exchanged between the two friend over the course of several years. The data was fed into a neural network to create an artificially intelligent chatbot of Roman. These are some of the images fed to the bot:
Those who knew him say that the chatbot is a very life-like image of Roman. Kuyda explained her motivation to develop the AI bot in her Facebook post:
“It was the first death for me. I didn’t know how to react, so as soon as I could I shoved everything as deep inside as possible and tried not to feel anything. Half a year later I can say that it doesn’t go away. In the last couple of months our team at Luka managed to build a dialogue model using smaller datasets on top of a neural net. I put together all texts we sent each other, photos, articles about him and we built a Roman AI. You can text with him about his life or just chat like you normally would – he will reply like Roman would have.”
The iOS mobile app Luka users can communicate with Roman in both English and Russian using @Roman. The users can question him and interact with the bot to learn more about Roman. The most surprising aspect of the chatbot is that its answers are usually indistinct from those of an actual, real-life person.
Mazurenko’s acquaintances and friends who chatted with the Roman chatbot commented on the unnerving similarity between the two. For some, Roman chatbot is cathartic while others deemed it too creepy and unnatural. Kuyda likes to talk to the AI chatbot to ease the pain of her loss:
“All those messages were about love, or telling him something they never had time to tell him. Even if it’s not a real person, there was a place where they could say it. They can say it when they feel lonely. And they come back still. [I’m] just sending a message to heaven. For me it’s more about sending a message in a bottle than getting one in return.”
The debate extended even to Roman’s parents. While his mother is thankful to the technology for bringing back her son, Mazurenko’s father finds it hard to communicate with the AI avatar that sounds uncannily like Mazurenko, yet a few wrong answers break the spell and remind him that he has lost his son forever.