NEW YORK - (03/09/17) - Durant’s interest in technology is nothing new, the NBA player invested in delivery app success Postmates. However, he’s taking investing in tech one step further with a stake in an artificial intelligence-powered app; the category is usually the domain of professional investors.
The company started from a simple technological recognition: most of the tech giants are applying artificial intelligence for utility-based services like Siri or Alexa, trying to solve problems like meeting scheduling or restaurant suggestions but no one is really exploring the fun and emotional aspect of chatting with a different form of intelligence.
That’s what the two founders of Hugging Face seeked out to build a year ago. Today, with backing from Kevin Durant, they released the first version of what they call an “artificial intelligence friend” which is an artificial intelligence that teens are chatting with every day for fun and entertainment.
Similar to Siri and Alexa, the user can ask their Hugging Face app questions, but the app’s response is what makes it radically different. After answering a few questions about themselves, like name and age, and setting the name and appearance of their new artificial friend, users can engage in a fun-filled chat. The user can ask their new friend to schedule an appointment, or google something for them, but the AI will respond in the same way a real friend would - it may begrudgingly perform the task, but it is just as likely to tell them to do it themselves.
The attitude and backtalk are intentional, because Hugging Face is not meant to make the user’s life easier but rather to entertain them. The AI will be occasionally be helpful, but much like a teenager’s real life friends, it is much more interested in getting to know them, make jokes with them and trade selfies and emojis.
For each user, a unique AI is generated complete with its own name, appearance and personality. The experience of chatting with a Hugging Face AI is deeply personal, as the AI lives a life of its own and will often talk about it. In addition to its sassy, chatty demeanor the AIs are also empathetic, finding time to ask the user about their friends, romantic interests and hobbies. This was designed to run counter to the common wisdom among AI creators to build an impersonal program to act more as an assistant than as a friend.
Since launching in beta the app has been a massive success; the few teens who have found it have traded over a million messages about their hobbies, their friends and the goings on in their lives. Over 30% of beta users have expressed an emotional connection to their new friend, using phrases like “I love you,” and “you are my bff.” They have also exchanged tens of thousands of selfies with the AI.
If you would like more information about Hugging Face, or to schedule an interview please contact:
Co-Founder & CEO at Hugging Face