Meta is going all in on the AI rush, revealing more than two dozen different chat bots with “personalities” loosely based on celebrities like Snoop Dogg and Kendall Jenner. The announcement, made Wednesday at Meta Connect, where the tech giant is unveiling its latest AI and virtual reality projects, confirmed a rumored effort to entice younger users with a wide array of AI characters.
The event also saw the launch of the company’s first virtual personal assistant, Meta AI, which has access to real-time information and can be used across the brand’s WhatsApp, Messenger, and Instagram apps. It’s one of a next generation of such tools, meant to improve upon the likes of Apple‘s Siri and Amazon‘s Alexa.
But Meta is departing from its Silicon Valley rivals by creating a large cast of AI bots that “that have more personality, opinions, and interests, and are a bit more fun to interact with,” according to a press release. These rolled out in beta on Wednesday (users will have to join a waitlist to try them out). The initial ensemble spans 28 characters, who all have profiles on Facebook and Instagram, where users can message them. And each is embodied by a celebrity or influencer — a gimmick that Meta hopes will boost engagement and keep users on their apps longer.
Among those high-profile names are Tom Brady, who plays Bru, a “wisecracking sports debater,” Paris Hilton as Amber, a “detective partner for solving whodunnits,” MrBeast as Zach, a “big brother who will roast you — because he cares,” and Snoop Dogg as Dungeon Master, a “choose your own adventure” bot for roleplaying games. Other characters are portrayed by Charli D’Amelio, Dwayne Wade, Kendall Jenner, and Chris Paul.
Mark Zuckerberg demonstrated a few of the bots during his Meta Connect keynote on Wednesday, showing how the AI assistant Max (played by chef Roy Choi) offers cooking tips and tricks, while a bot called Dylan (played by crafting YouTuber LaurDIY) will help you figure out Halloween costumes. By far, however, the most enthusiastic reaction was to Snoop’s Dungeon Master, who appeared on screen in a fantastical getup and exhorted the audience, “Let’s get medieval, player.”
Yet Zuckerberg cautioned that Meta was still “early” in the process of developing such products, and for the most part, the celeb characters are only shown cycling through a few stock expressions as the image above a ChatGPT-like text field. He said that the aim was to add voices, perhaps by next year. Zuckerberg further noted that the apps have “limitations” that will be apparent once users try them, and — unlike Meta AI — rely on information that may be more dated.
Meta seems to be bullish on the concept, promising in their release that new characters were on the way, embodied by the likes of Bear Grylls, Chloe Kim, and Josh Richards. And the company recently posted a job listing on LinkedIn seeking a full-time “Character Writer” to work on their generative AI team. Experience in Hollywood was among the preferred qualifications for applicants.
Leading up to Meta Connect, chatter about the AI personalities indicated problems that may resurface as they become widely available across Facebook and Instagram. According to a Wall Street Journal report based on internal company documents, the unintended side effects of giving the chatbots more personality included misogynistic comments from a bot called Gavin, while an employee worried that an alien-themed bot eager to learn about human experience could be seen as “purposefully designed to collect personal information.” Neither bot was ultimately included in Wednesday’s rollout.
But whatever headaches the new bots bring with them, Meta won’t be suffering alone. Probably the closest analogue to their AI characters is Snapchat’s My AI, a bot that acts like your close confidante — and has been shown to generate inappropriate responses, telling a Washington Post reporter posing as a young teen how to mask the smell of alcohol and cannabis, and even writing a homework assignment for him.
Big Tech continues to look for ways to enhance existing platforms with AI regardless, even as they claim to just be “experimenting” with the technology, as Zuckerberg put it before showing off the celebrity AI bots. In some ways, it’s a bet that the future of the internet will be dominated by artificial interactions rather than human conversation. Soon you may not have to “friend” or follow any real people at all.