What Is an AI Character?
Whether we're aware of it or not, most of us have probably encountered user-created characters daily. AI is becoming interwoven with our experiences, changing the game for the ways that we communicate, work, and play.
The world of AI has blended seamlessly with our reality, breaking boundaries and blurring the lines between humans and robots. It might sound scary on the surface, but the possibilities of this emerging technology can offer groundbreaking solutions to various human problems. Don't we all wish existence could be a bit easier?
An 'AI character' generally refers to a fictional character or being that runs on artificial intelligence technology.
So, where might you find them in the wild?
These AI assistants are crafted to chat with you via text or voice communications. Whether you need help on a website, have burning questions that you need answering, or want support from a friendly customer service assistant whose only goal is to help you, these digital companions are on hand to offer information and insights.
Non-Playable Video Game Characters (NPCs)
Most video games feature NPCs in some form or another, and these often utilize character AI. Forget human players pulling the strings or villains with only one line of dialogue. These digital characters are controlled by AI algorithms. They can be your quest buddies, worst enemies, or make your virtual world feel more authentic with their quirks and skills.
Many people already have an advanced AI assistant in their homes. Devices like Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant use AI to fulfill your requests, helping with basic tasks such as switching lights on and off, answering questions, or reminding you that the pizza must come out of the oven ASAP.
Using the advanced creation tools available online, you can also create and customize totally new characters using AI algorithms. You can produce images to use as avatars, generate dialogues, and even give them a unique voice. For LARPers, D&D dungeon masters, and fanfic writers, the ability to make ultra-realistic AI personalities lets you take world-building to the next level.
How Does Character AI Work?
On September 16, 2022, Palo Alto-based startup Character.AI was launched to the public. This beta model AI generator was the brainchild of former Google engineers Noam Shazeer and Daniel De Freitas. They used their industry expertise to create their own proprietary technology that revolutionized AI scripts. In August, it was reported that there were 4.2 million app users in the US alone, most on the official mobile app.
Powered by a neural language model, the Character.AI system responds to your prompts and uses sophisticated algorithms to simulate conversations. Drawing on the technology established by similar large language models, it incorporates machine learning, natural language processing, computer vision, and speech recognition to create captivating stories and realistic interactions.
The prospect of inventing my own character and talking to them sparked my curiosity, but I was also apprehensive. Could you really have a meaningful exchange with something computer-generated?
A New Character Has Entered the Chat
As a writer, the possibility of talking to my creations and having them respond appealed to me. There would be no more wondering what they would say in any given situation: they could tell me.
After playing around with the visual elements for a while, I moved across to Deep.AI to explore the chat feature for my next step. If you want to hear from your favorite anime personas, brainstorm about the future of science with Marie Curie, or find out from Gordon Ramsay exactly why you shouldn't microwave a salad, this works a treat. As the site offered a wide range of film stars and cultural icons to choose from, I used the search tool to select one of my heroes.
While she was unfortunately unable to tell me where she ended up landing, Amelia Earhart filled me in on some of her most famous passengers, including Eleanor Roosevelt. I also learned all about her trusty crew member, Gigi the Cairn Terrier, who often soared through the skies alongside her. Time really flies when you're having fun.
With this under my belt, I was ready to try building my own companion on Character.AI from scratch. The process was straightforward and smooth to follow, including almost everything your characters need to succeed. I clicked the 'create' button on the homepage, selected 'create a character,' and picked out a name for my chat partner - Sasquatch Susie.
Why Would You Want to Use Character AI?
Creating an AI character offers myriad benefits for users, blending tech with creativity. These entities can serve as unique and interactive components for storytelling, gaming, or virtual environments. They can adapt to user interactions, providing bespoke and expansive experiences that enhance engagement and relatability. In short, they make learning and day-to-day tasks way more enjoyable.
In the future, you're likely to see them cropping up in many of the places you love. Here are a couple of examples showing how they might be relevant to your work or daily activities.
You have the power to create the characters of your dreams, setting up something similar to a 'choose your own adventure' scenario that helps you run through ideas and flesh out your writing.
If you are starting up your own venture and don't have the funds to hire extra staff, why not bring on a virtual assistant to join your team? They can field queries and guide users through common issues, which can be a lifeline. Moreover, they can handle customer service tasks with efficiency and accuracy, streamlining your workflow and taking some of the pressure off your shoulders.
Transforming Classrooms: Learning With An Advanced AI Assistant
Although there are no substitutes for human teachers, introducing AI characters to classrooms has flipped the script on outdated learning models. Whereas traditional teaching practices have tended to adopt a one-size-fits-all approach, these learning tools can pick up on students' strengths and weaknesses, adapting to their specific needs and learning methods. These virtual assistants can deliver personalized teaching plans for individual students, making the course material more accessible and understandable.
As with any simulation software, taking the responses provided during interactive chats with a grain of salt is essential. In the words of Character.AI, "a hallucinating supercomputer is not a source of reliable information." Although these systems constantly evolve and become more intelligent, false information, known as 'hallucinations,' can still slip through the cracks.
Venturing too far into legalities can be a snooze-fest. Still, the potential for users to create deepfakes and spread misinformation raises ethical concerns.
While most features fall under the category of parody and fair use (an area of the law rife with both loopholes and potholes), developers and companies face the challenge of treading a fine line when imitating the image of well-known figures online.
As the reach of AI increases, many legal experts have predicted that the laws around these issues will need to be revisited and revised.
It is also wise to be mindful of what you write in your conversations. Although many platforms offer the option to make your creations private or public, the sites generally keep a log of your keystrokes to improve their AI technology. As with any other online activity, don't give out personal information that could compromise your safety and security.