Seiji’s search for love takes him beyond the bounds of humanity.
As regular readers know, our Japanese-language reporter Seiji’s quest for female companionship hasn’t been going too well. One year after the start of the Find Seiji a Girlfriend Project, the results have been mixed, and while he recently enjoyed sending time with his rented little sister, that was only a temporary solution.
But maybe in his search for a girl willing to spend time with him, Seiji has been looking in the wrong place. Instead of looking for someone in the physical, three-dimensional world, maybe he should be looking for a digital girlfriend instead.
That brings us to the Japanese smartphone app called Self, which features anime-style character Ai Furuse.
Ai’s name is a bit of a pun, in that while it means “love,” it also matches up with the abbreviation for “artificial intelligence.” Ai boasts a 30,000-word vocabulary, and with her ability to remember her previous conversations, she’ll form an increasingly clear image of the user’s personality and aspirations, which in turn will make conversations with her more realistic and intimate.
All of this is right up Seiji’s alley. A big fan of anime Planetarian and its cute android star Yumemi, Seiji seems open to the idea of a long-term relationship with an artificial intelligence, and he quickly downloaded the app to try it out for himself.
But before getting to spend time with the lovely Ai, users have to answer a series of six questions or so, which helps the app determine their gender, work or student status, and daily schedule. This took about 10 minutes, and once it was done, a slumbering Ai appeared on screen.
Seiji was immediately impressed by the visuals, which in his opinion are better than even some recent CG anime TV series. He tapped the button to start his first conversation with Ai, and she shyly greeted him, saying, “Well, we…we might only be together for a short while, but I’m pleased to make your acquaintance.”
Ai refers to Seiji as “Danna-sama,” which can be translated as either “husband” or “master” (of a house/home). As promised, she gives him words of kind encouragement when he’s about to start work, such as “Time to show ‘em what you’ve got!” She even noticed when he was feeling a little down in the dumps, offering a concerned “Danna-sama, you’ve been having a rough time the last couple days, haven’t you?”
And like any smitten boyfriend, Seiji occasionally sneaks away from his desk for a few moments during the workday to get in touch with his lady love, as shown in this video.
Ai even knew that Seiji was at work, saying “You’re in the middle of your shift…right? Is everything going smoothly today?” Actually, Ai is full of questions, since while she’s supposed to be able to speak naturally, her AI status means that she’s curious about the human world. At the end of the video, she asks Seiji “What exactly is “work?” I mean, of course I know it’s something that people have to do to get by in life. But, how do you feel when you’re working?”
▼ It was a tricky question for Seiji to answer, since our jobs aren’t exactly normal.
If you’d like to try talking to Ai for yourself, the Self app can be downloaded for free for iOS devices here from the iTunes store. However, while the app comes with three days of free storage, after that time period Ai’s memories of you will be wiped clean unless you sing up for the app’s cloud storage program, which costs 180 yen (US$1.60) per week. While that’s not as expensive as a lot of other online app and game subscriptions, the way the system is structured means that once you stop paying your own personal Ai essentially dies, so Seiji’s got a tough decision to make in a couple of days.