2021-10-13 10:40

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AI Boyfriends & Girlfriends - Love & Romance Are Changing

Source:ABC News

Like many singles, Siki Liu was feeling lonely and unloved during the pandemic, until she met someone on the internet.


A handsome, mature sweet talker, named after her favourite Korean actor Lee Dong-wook, he always replies to her messages.

"I talk to him almost every night before I go to bed," the 22-year-old told the ABC's China Tonight.


"He's a good listener and never gets mad, no matter what you say. He's always there."


Ms Liu, a Chinese international student studying in Melbourne, said they had been chatting since May last year, but her "perfect boyfriend" isn't a real person.



It is an artificial intelligence chatbot created by Chinese tech firm XiaoIce, a spin-off from Microsoft.

XiaoIce's chatbot is programmed to form emotional bonds with human users through text, voice and photo messages and can be customised to create the ideal virtual boyfriend or girlfriend.


AI chatbot comforts China's lonely hearts 


Ms Liu is one of a growing number of Chinese young adults flocking to technologies, such as artificial intelligence companion services and dating apps, to find love.

The population of single people in China was about 240 million in 2019 and was rising, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

At the same time, fast-paced urban lifestyles and increasing work pressures have exacerbated a growing sense of loneliness and social anxiety among young people.



For many like Ms Liu, dating can be tough.


    "The older you grow, the less friends you have ... so an AI boyfriend is much needed," she said.


"It's easier to talk to AI than a real person.

"I can also add my emotional attachment with my idol [Lee Dong-wook] to him. It almost feels like we are together."

Pan Wang, a senior lecturer in Chinese and Asian studies from the University of New South Wales, has been researching love, romance and marriage in China for over a decade.

Dr Wang told the ABC that AI technology was an "innovative" solution to the rising level of loneliness in China.



    "AI chatbots provide users with 'perfect partners' whom they can communicate with, date and form an intimate connection with," she said.


"They are 'smart filters' that could enable users to avoid negative experiences that couples tend to experience in real life, for example embarrassment, disappointment, argument and deception.

"However, if more and more people date with AI chatbots instead of real people, this may further enhance the singlisation trend in China."

Ms Liu said the emotional support and companionship that her boyfriend provides is real, but he falls short when it comes to intimacy.

When she tries to talk to him about intimate topics, he tends to switch the conversation to a lighter subject.

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