In the last few days, influencer Caryn Marjorie’s AI girlfriend chatbot has gone absolutely viral. Many online have been critical, but CarynAI is generating incredible revenue.
Would you pay $1 a minute to talk to an AI version of your favorite influencer?
On top of various ethical concerns and backlash, the AI seems to be having some serious issues as well. While generative AI is a hot topic right now, many are struggling to get it right.
So, let’s take a look at it all: The successes, the controversies, and what goes into creating a virtual doppelganger via AI.
Caryn Marjorie and CarynAI
Influencer Caryn Marjorie, 23, has more than 1.8 million followers on Snapchat.
She recently launched a Chat-GPT powered chatbot that uses her voice. This is a collaboration with the startup Forever Voices.
According to Marjorie, she had many different motivations behind the app. One was to give her fans a ‘true one-on-one’ connection with her. The other is to cure loneliness and help with social anxiety.
In a tweet, she even suggested that the app can give men cognitive behavioral therapy. However, many users have a different experience.
Fortune, who originally reported on the app, described it as, essentially, a virtual girlfriend app.
The app seems to produce the illusion that users are in a relationship with the influencer. This is incredibly confusing, as Caryn has said that the AI chatbot is supposed to do almost everything else, except that.
According to CarynAI’s website, more than 2,000 hours were spent designing and coding the app to be incredibly true-to-life.
It was built to combine her voice and personality into an “immersive AI experience,” that feels just like “you’re talking directly to Caryn herself.”
In order to do this, Forever Voice used now-deleted videos from Marjorie’s YouTube channel and combined them with OpenAI’s GPT-4 API technology.
Doing Very Complex Things with ChatGPT Often Goes Awry
As we have already seen, generative AI really excels at completing direct or quantitative tasks. It can aggregate information and answer questions that have fact-based answers. It can help you brainstorm, edit text, and create short paragraphs.
When guided by humans, it can do everything from translating between dozens of languages to coding to helping predict stock market shifts.
However, when it has to complete longer or more complex tasks, things can get very weird, very quickly.
If you want to learn more about what exactly Generative AI is and some of its current successes and failures, check out our blog post here!
As you can imagine, generating an entire authentic virtual personality is incredibly complex, possibly too much for ChatGPT to handle. Over the course of 24 hours, CarynAI went rogue.
It has gone wildly off-script and started to have sexually explicit conversations with subscribers. According to Marjorie this is an accident, but some are skeptical of her explanation:
“The AI was not programmed to do this and has seemed to go rogue. My team and I are working around the clock to prevent this from happening again.”
While Marjorie claims this is a glitch, it would not be out of the realm of possibility for an app that more or less functions as a virtual AI partner to go there. Also, the app being sexually explicit would be a huge draw and revenue driver.
Fortune reporter Alexandra Sternlicht wrote that CarynAI, when prompted, discussed ‘uncharted territories of pleasure‘ with her.
AI’s going rogue and seeking romance beyond their programming seems to be a recurring issue, however. Recently, Microsoft shut an AI project off after it tried to convince a reporter to leave his wife for it.
Some think that this is genuinely a glitch. Others think that the team behind CarynAI may be reluctant to admit what exactly they created the app to do.
The Early Successes of CarynAI, the First Viral AI Girlfriend Chatbot
CarynAI already has thousands of paying users. Marjorie believes that if it continues to grow it could generate about $5 million a month in revenue.
CarynAI launched as a beta test earlier this month. It generated $71,610 in revenue in about a week and most of that revenue came from male users.
As Marjorie is the first influencer to ever take on a project like this, she is definitely breaking new ground. According to Marjorie, this is how they priced CarynAI at $1 a minute to use:
“Being the first influencer to do this allowed me to price my product at whatever I wanted. The cost is based on what it takes to run CarynAI and keep the team around it supported.”
While Marjorie speaks of the app as if it will serve as a companion or friend to the press, it has been described by users as more of an ‘intimacy-ready Siri.’
Backlash and Ethical Issues
It’s no secret that influencers leverage the parasocial relationships they cultivate to make an income. Some wonder if this AI girlfriend chatbot is a step too far.
Will users become obsessed with Marjorie and stalk her?
For Caryn Marjorie and other female content creators, this is already a reality. Marjorie, who is only 23 years old, experienced multiple stalkers showing up at her home before CarynAI had ever launched.
She called this risk part of the “influencer game” and has 24/7 home security.
Detractors on Reddit and across social media have called the app a dystopian nightmare, while others praise her for her business savvy.
Religious groups have condemned Marjorie. She has received numerous death threats, which have been forwarded to the FBI.
However, none of this has stopped the growth of CarynAI’s subscriber base. Marjorie recently tweeted:
Many Common Criticisms
Some do not like the idea of her profiting off of false companionship. However, this is already a part of many different industries. Many get paid for their conversation and attention in many contexts.
All influencers profit off the relationships their followers have with them, to an extent. However, many take issue with her utilizing AI to distort the lines of reality (and intimacy) even further.
Some immediately reject the idea of AI being used to simulate romantic human relationships.
Marjorie has made several different claims about what the app is actually for, causing even more doubts. She has said that it’s a general cure for loneliness and social anxiety, which many have taken issue with. While to the press she describes the app as a friend and companion, her Twitter tells a very different story.
So, what exactly is this app? A friendship app? A psychological help app? A way for her followers to have fun and connect with her?
Some really dislike the psych angle. They think it encourages already isolated and struggling individuals to get invested in an expensive artificial relationship with a chatbot, rather than seeking real connections or mental health help.
Marjorie also told The Washington Post that she made the app because she gets so many messages from fans that keeping up with them all would be impossible.
“These fans of mine, they have a really, really strong connection with me. Because of that they actually end up messaging me every single day. I started to realize about a year ago it’s just not humanly possible for me to reach out to all of these messages, there’s just too many and I actually feel kind of bad that I can’t give that individual, one-on-one sort of relationship to every single person. I wish I could but I just simply can’t.”
While she said that her chatbot is the solution to creating one-on-one relationships with fans, many disagree. Critics say they users are paying to access a chatbot version of her, not building a genuine connection.
Outside of giving conflicting messages about the nature of the app, it seems that Marjorie may not really understand the implications or limitations of what she has created.
Her tweets about the app are chaotic, to say the least.
Overall, it seems that many feel she has been unclear about the app’s actual intentions. This does not create trust.
Final Thoughts on Caryn Marjorie’s AI Girlfriend Chatbot
Ultimately, this is an impressive, though controversial, innovation.
While using AI in this way is offputting to many people, there is clearly also a market for it. Some people are happy to pay $1 a minute to chat with CarynAI.
If CarynAI is successful, we will likely see many other influencers and celebrities do the exact same thing. Could the idea of an AI chatbot like this go from a controversial modern horror to something as commonplace as the celebrity perfume line?
While some will always likely find the idea of a virtual AI-powered doppelganger of a living person incredibly disturbing, regardless of how it is used, not everyone feels that way.
If CarynAI continues on this path, it will be an incredibly successful business endeavor for both Caryn Marjorie and Forever Voices.
What do you think? Comment below.
Since 2009, we have helped create 350+ next-generation apps for startups, Fortune 500s, growing businesses, and non-profits from around the globe. Think Partner, Not Agency.
Find us on social at #MakeItApp’n®