Are Virtual Girlfriends the Relationship of the Future?

woman, robot, AI, chatbot

The AI girlfriend is here, thanks to a wide variety of programs and apps that will hook you up with the virtual love of your life. That raises many questions beyond which virtual girlfriend is the best. How does this technology work? Is it beneficial to the individual or society, or will it drive people farther from each other in real life? Can virtual girlfriends even save lives?

What is a virtual girlfriend?

The term virtual girlfriend can refer to a real person that you have an online or virtual relationship with. However, it’s usually referring to a type of artificial intelligence (AI) that mimics human interaction. Apps and computer programs are created using advanced AI technology. They provide a visual representation of a girl that you can customize to your liking. The visual is only a small part of the experience, however.

The key aspect is that they communicate with you in a way similar to a real person. They remember what you tell them. They can ask and answer questions. Many allow you to choose a personality setting. They are meant to improve over time. Just like a real girlfriend, communication deepens as they learn more about you.

The loneliness epidemic

There’s a loneliness epidemic going on around the world. It particularly affects industrialized countries. This condition raises the risk of early death by 26%. One in three people are affected, and one in 12 suffer a serious form that has a major negative impact on their life. To make matters worse, loneliness’s symptoms are often dismissed unless they become severe enough to prevent leading a normal life.

Loneliness has a high comorbidity rate with depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. Health officials are beginning to recognize the link between loneliness, mental health disorders, and physical conditions. However, what to do about loneliness is a hotly debated question.

Virtual girlfriend: friend or foe?

Proponents of virtual girlfriends point out the need for a way to ease loneliness. They say that a relationship with AI can be beneficial, and even give them the confidence they need to find a real-life relationship. Others are concerned that virtual relationships may set unrealistic expectations and discourage people from finding real-life relationships.

Results seem to be mixed. Some people who use technology see it as their real life, and they have no desire to find a real intimate partner. For others, it fills a gap in their lives until they find their special someone. It can also improve social skills and help you overcome social anxiety. If practice makes perfect, a virtual girlfriend might be what a person needs to train for real relationship interactions.

Virtual girlfriends aren’t the only way technology is being used to fight loneliness. The University of Strathclyde’s Dr. Graeme McLean conducted a study on Amazon Echo owners, and found that loneliness was one of the common reasons people use the devices. He states that the use of voice technology allows people to develop a rapport with the device similar to that developed with other people.

Virtual girlfriends are more controversial than virtual assistants, perhaps because they are more realistic. Natural language processing, or NLP, continues to develop. Machine learning has become standard. For better or worse, the virtual girlfriend will only get more realistic.

Gatebox virtual girlfriend and home assistant

If you want to take your virtual dating to the next level, Gatebox provides a startlingly realistic experience. The virtual girlfriend Azuma doesn’t live in a two-dimensional screen. Instead, she lives in a glass tube as a holographic projection. She can perform any function you would expect from a virtual assistant like Alexa or Siri. However, she also provides companionship.

She can turn on the lights before you get home, turn your television on or off, and keep you company on lonely nights. She’s designed to react visibly. She changes outfits. Make her happy, and she might jump up and down. She also initiates conversation. Want someone to ask how work is going or what time you will be home? Azuma will send you phone messages just to chat.

Virtual girlfriend games

These are simulation games. You choose a girl and begin wooing her. This might be done with gifts (in-app purchases) or through time and conversation. Some have a sexual aspect that will eventually allow you to consummate your virtual relationship. Others are domestic-focused. You can have dinner, chat, and even play games with your girlfriend. Many of these games are available for Apple and Android devices. There are also virtual reality versions, which further blur the lines between fantasy and reality.

There are valid concerns about the virtual girlfriend phenomenon. However, concerns arise anytime new technology develops. Some will claim the new tech is the downfall of humanity, and others will claim it’s here to save us. The truth is usually in the middle. Cell phones and Facebook have benefited us in some ways and harmed us in others. Virtual girlfriends are here to stay, and the long term consequences will probably be both positive and negative.