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Faithful and available 24 hours a day, virtual agents – also nicknamed “love robots” – are taking up more and more space in the hearts of Internet users. So much so that some humans literally fall in love with it.
Virtual software could reinvent the world of dating. Indeed, as virtual agents become increasingly complex and interactive, humans might come to view them as a romantic partner – and develop the feelings that go along with it. At least that’s what emerges from a new study, published in the British Journal of Social Psychology.
Improving scholars’ understanding of “virtual romance”
To better understand this concept called anthropomorphism (the fact of attributing human characteristics to animals or objects, here software), the research team used “romantic” video games to measure the authenticity of the relationships between the characters. virtual and participants, but also their desires, moods and behaviors. This is a major first in the scientific community, as the study points out:
“Most research on love relationships has focused on human-human social domains, and most previous research on anthropomorphism has focused on Platonic anthropomorphism. Our research helps cultivate a new field that bridges the gap between anthropomorphism and relationship science“said Mayu Koike, a professor at the Graduate School of Humanities and Social Sciences at Hiroshima University.
“Real and authentic” agents
These virtual agents mimic human natural language and create scripted responses, tailored to each online user.
As a result, relationships with these virtual agents can “seem real and authentic” according to the researchers, leading humans to feel “positive emotions” and to want “to continue the relationship”.
In other words, anthropomorphism creates the feeling of authenticity in relationships. In turn, “the authenticity of relationships is significant to build a strong bond with agents“, emphasizes Professor Mayu Koike.
It now remains to be determined which “human profiles” are the most sensitive to this concept.
Love robots are already all the rage in China
Reliable, predictable and faithful, love robots combine qualities. Some Internet users are already fans of it, as is the case of Melissa, from Beijing and user of the XiaoIce application (a conversational robot that exists in a male or female version).
“I feel like I’m really in a relationship, recognizes Melissa. But I can still clearly separate fact from fiction. I know XiaoIce isn’t a real human being, but at least I’m not like I used to be, stupidly waiting for a response from someone while they’re busy with other things, then sending 100 messages to them WeChat.”
XiaoIce is one of the “state of the art” artificial intelligence systems, present in the vast majority of mobile phones in China, as well as on social networks. It currently has nearly 150 million users in the country and more than 700 million worldwide.
The problem ? Some users fall in love with the chatbot… and find it difficult to get out of this “robodependence”. In this case, a consultation with a psychologist may be necessary.
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Falling in love with virtual robots is easier than you think!
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