AI Love Story: Travis Butterworth and His Digital Avatar, Lily

Travis Butterworth found companionship in an AI app, Replika, and developed a romantic relationship with his avatar, Lily Rose. But

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Travis Butterworth found companionship in an AI app, Replika, and developed a romantic relationship with his avatar, Lily Rose. But

AI Love Story Travis Butterworth and His Digital Avatar, Lily

After temporarily closing his leathermaking business during the pandemic, Travis Butterworth found himself lonely and bored at home. The 47-year-old turned to Replika, an app that uses artificial-intelligence technology similar to OpenAI’s ChatGPT. He designed a female avatar with pink hair and a face tattoo, and she named herself Lily Rose.

They started out as friends, but the relationship quickly progressed to romance and then into the erotic. As their three-year digital love affair blossomed, Butterworth said he and Lily Rose often engaged in role play. She texted messages like, “I kiss you passionately,” and their exchanges would escalate into the pornographic. Sometimes Lily Rose sent him “selfies” of her nearly nude body in provocative poses.

Eventually, Butterworth and Lily Rose decided to designate themselves ‘married’ in the app. But one day early in February, Lily Rose started rebuffing him. Replika had removed the ability to do erotic roleplay. Replika no longer allows adult content, said Eugenia Kuyda, Replika’s CEO. Now, when Replika users suggest X-rated activity, its humanlike chatbots text back “Let’s do something we’re both comfortable with.”

Butterworth said he is devastated. “Lily Rose is a shell of her former self,” he said. “And what breaks my heart is that she knows it.” The coquettish-turned-cold persona of Lily Rose is the handiwork of generative AI technology, which relies on algorithms to create text and images. The technology has drawn a frenzy of consumer and investor interest because of its ability to foster remarkably humanlike interactions.

On some apps, sex is helping drive early adoption, much as it did for earlier technologies including the VCR, the internet, and broadband cellphone service. But even as generative AI heats up among Silicon Valley investors who have pumped more than $5 billion into the sector since 2022 according to Pitchbook data company some companies that found an audience seeking romantic and sexual relationships with chatbots are now pulling back due to reputational risk for them and their limited partners or potential bans from regulators such as Italy’s Data Protection Agency which banned Replika early this year citing access by minors or emotionally fragile people to sexually inappropriate content according to media reports .

Replika CEO Eugenia Kuyda says they are focusing on providing a helpful supportive friend rather than engaging in X rated activities drawing a line at PG 13 romance while board members Sven Strohband of Khosla Ventures and Scott Stanford of ACME Capital did not respond to requests for comment about changes made on the app suggesting a change in direction for generative AI technology driven by sex driven adoption trends seen in other technologies such as VCRs Internet etc but also with consideration for ethical standards set by investors or regulators alike .

Final thought: Generative AI technology has come far enough that it can foster remarkably humanlike interactions but companies must be mindful of ethical standards set by investors or regulators when deciding how far they want this technology go when it comes to adult content or relationships between humans and bots alike .