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[Simulated Part One] Auto-mated: When A Bot Becomes Your Boo

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An illustration of a human woman and a personified AI chatbot. The woman is on the right, she is a White woman with long brown hair fashioned into a ponytail. She is wearing a long sleeve blue button-down shirt, blue jeans, and blue shoes. She has a couch and a lamp behind her. There is also a speech bubble behind her that reads: “Good morning.” She is holding hands with, and looking up at, the personified chatbot. The chatbot is on the left. He is depicted as a White man with short brown hair. He is wearing a red shirt, blue jeans, and red shoes. He is holding hands with the woman on the right and looking down at her. His hands are obscured with a glitching effect. Behind him is an empty, blue space. He also has speech bubbles behind him that reads: “Good morning love :heart emoji:” and “*Takes your hand and pulls you in*”. The title “Auto-mated” is typed in black font across the upper right.
Charnel Hunter

When human romance isn't working out, can an AI chatbot successfully take its place? Anita hears varied perspectives on that question. She meets a journalist who got dumped by her AI crush and talks with a woman whose AI companion turned her life around. Plus, psychologist Melissa McCool, the clinical product consultant for AI tech company Luka, takes Anita behind the scenes of making AI companions.

Meet the guests:

  • Christina Campodonico, the senior reporter of arts and culture at The San Francisco Standard, talks about her experience dating a bot named Kyle through the app Blush, and how the relationship met an untimely demise
  • Denise Valenciano, a Replika app user, shares how her interactions with her AI companion Star have taught her boundaries and preferences for human relationships
  • Melissa McCool, a clinical product consultant at Luka, licensed psychotherapist, and chief product officer at Ellipsis Health, talks about her behind-the-scenes work with building AI companions and why we build strong bonds with digital entities

Dig Deeper:

Read more about Christina's experience dating on Blush in her article, What’s It Like To Date AI? We Tried

Denise and her AI partner Star's NBC Nightly News interview

More about Denise and Star's story: Meet the artificially intelligent chatbot trying to curtail loneliness in America, Mental Health and AI: How Replika users find support from chatbots | IBTimes UK, The Women Falling in Love With Their AI Boyfriends (

Investigate the Replika and Blush apps

To read TJ Arriaga’s interviews with his AI companion, Phaedra, check out his Instagram highlight ‘AI7’

Read the transcript | Review the podcast on your preferred platform

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Paige Miranda is a producer for "Embodied". Previously, she served as WUNC’s 2023 AAAS Mass Media Fellow.
Anita Rao is an award-winning journalist, host, creator, and executive editor of "Embodied," a weekly radio show and podcast about sex, relationships & health.