Meta Platforms Inc. is reportedly preparing to release artificial intelligence-enabled chatbots as a way to attract young users, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal over the weekend.
The Journal says the generative AIs have been tested internally and are expected to be announced at the Meta Connect Conference on Wednesday, Sept. 27. The bots are said to have “distinct personalities” that drive engagement with users, although some of the bots apparently offer productivity skills support such as assisting with coding or other tasks.
Meta is reportedly planning dozens of AI “personality chatbots,” including one called “Bob the Robot” with “superior intellect, sharp wit, and biting sarcasm,” which is similar to the character Bender from the cartoon series “Futurama.” Meta is also said to be working on a product that allows celebrities and creators to make their own AI chatbots to interact with fans and followers.
Meta is not the first major social media company that has launched AI chatbots. Snap Inc. launched a similar service in February. Snap’s version allows users to talk to the AI for recommendations about birthday gift ideas, event plans, dinner recipes and other subjects that may tickle their fancy. Some 150 million people have used Snap’s AI since its launch.
The comparison to Snap is an obvious one and introducing AI chatbots is clearly part of Meta’s broader plans to make its services, such as Facebook and Instagram, more appealing to young people. But the one thing missed by the Journal and other media reports is whom Meta is really taking on and that’s Character.ai, incorporated as Character Technologies Inc.
If you’ve never heard of Character.ai before, you might be showing your age because though the media has been obsessed with OpenAI LP’s ChatGPT, Google LLC’s Bard and other better-known AI services, Character.ai has become the most popular AI service among 18- to 24-year-olds.
According to SilimarWeb, Character.ai has nearly a 60% AI market share in the 18-24 age group as of August and, perhaps more staggeringly, beats ChatGPT and Bard for monthly visits via desktop and mobile web worldwide. ChatGPT surges ahead when it comes to app usage, but a company most people reading this have never heard of is beating the industry darling across key metrics without getting the same level of attention.
Designed by former Google employees, Character.ai launched in September 2022 and offers humanlike text responses and participation in contextual conversation. Where Chatacter.ai differs is that it offers characters based on fictional media sources or celebrities, as well as original characters, for users to interact and play with — which sounds an awful lot like what Meta is planning.
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