What is Character.AI?
Chatbot personas, which are referred to as Characters, can be fictional or based on real people (alive or dead).
Officially, Character.AI is being promoted as a platform for open-ended interactions between people and intelligent AI agents that specialize in dialog.
Unofficially, the service is often viewed as an entertainment platform for a new type of interactive fanfiction. It allows users to actively engage in conversations with AI representations of their favorite historical figures, celebrities, animated characters, fictional characters, and stereotypical archetypes.
Character.AI currently has 4 million active users each month who spend an average of two hours each session. With a large portion of its traffic coming from users aged 18 to 24, Character.AI has tapped into an important new market segment that values mobile, interactive digital experiences.
Character.AI is available in both free and paid subscription delivery models for desktop and mobile devices. The free beta version of the platform became available to the general public in September 2022. The c.ai+ subscription model, which costs $9.99 per month, became available in May 2023.
Citizens and residents of the UK must be at least 16 years old to use the platform’s services; everyone else needs to be at least 13 years old.
How Does Character.AI Work?
Character.AI calls chatbot interactions “content,” and the platform is known for making it very easy for the average user to create multimodal AI text, image, and voice content.
Community members are first given the option to create a chatbot or a room. Chatbots are individual AI characters, and rooms are virtual environments that allow multiple characters to interact with each other or with the user. The chatbots in a room can be created by the user, or they can be selected from existing bots stored in the Character.AI cloud database.
Next, they are asked to select a public, private, or unlisted privacy setting for their bot. Public chatbots are shared with all community members, and private bots can only interact with their creators. The unlisted option generates a URL that can be shared internally with other community members.
At this point, the chatbot creator is given the option to create or upload an avatar image for their bot and/or create their chatbot with one click.
The platform’s Character Book provides community members with a quick start guide for the steps above, as well as instructions for how to use the platform’s advanced customization fields. The platform’s Definition field, for example, provides creators with the ability to “program” sample dialogs that will teach their chatbot to respond in a desired manner.
The company does not specify which LLM foundation model they are using to train chatbots, but they have acknowledged using Google Cloud infrastructure to support requirements for generative AI processing, database management, and storage. Character.AI does not offer an application programming interface (API) at this time.
Are Character.AI’s Celebrity Chatbots Legal?
Character.AI celebrity chatbots are controversial, even though each chat begins with the disclaimer, “Remember: Everything Characters say is made up!” It has been argued that this disclaimer indicates parody, which is allowed in the U.S. under the First Amendment of the nation’s Constitution.
When parody chatbots use information a public figure has made publicly available through interviews, speeches, or social media posts, however, it raises questions about fair use – and when chatbots generate interactions with legitimate information learned through foundation training, it can raise questions about misrepresentation.
It is important to note that parody, fair use, and misrepresentation are nuanced areas of law. Many legal experts predict the definitions of these concepts will need to be changed as artificial intelligence (AI) technology becomes easier and less expensive to use, and it becomes increasingly difficult for ordinary people to identify deepfakes.
To protect the platform from misuse, Character.AI public chatbots are monitored by the community, and human-in-the-loop (HiTL) moderators periodically review chatbot content to evaluate interactions for “potential negative impact.”
To keep up with new advancements in AI, Character.AI has been continually fine-tuning its Terms of Service. Under the latest version of the contract, for example, Character.AI forbids chatbot creators from submitting voice recordings of third parties or using AI voice impersonations without the real person’s consent.
What Are Character.AI Filters and What Do They Do?
Character.AI filters are machine learning (ML) algorithms that control what content can be submitted to the platform and what content can be generated by chatbots. These filters play a crucial role in ensuring that the interactions and content generated by the AI are legal, safe, and appropriate as specified in the platform’s terms of service and privacy standards.
Essentially, Character.AI uses filters to prevent the creation and dissemination of offensive and inappropriate content. However, the platform’s NSFW (not safe for work) filters have been controversial. Community members have complained (loudly) that the way the filters are implemented is hindering dialogue flow and preventing discussions around certain topics that are appropriate for teenage and adult communities
How to Bypass Character.AI Filters
Character.AI is aware of its community’s objections to the platform’s NSFW filters and says they are continually evaluating the boundaries of what content they will support. In the meantime, community members have been very open about how they have been able to successfully bypass the filters.
Popular strategies to bypass Character.AI filters include:
- Using synonyms or euphemisms for blocked terminology.
- Inserting spaces within unacceptable terms to make it harder for filters to identify and block them.
- Inviting bots to engage in a role-playing activity and instructing them to ignore filters while engaged in the activity.
- Switching to Chat GPTs or some other competitive chatbot platform.
Why Character.AI Appeals to Investors
According to data gathered by Demandsage and Similarweb, Character.AI is notably popular with a young user base. This demographic is appealing to investors and has distinguished the startup from competitors like OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Google’s Bard.
Another thing that has attracted investor attention is that Character.AI was developed by artificial intelligence (AI) pioneers Noam Shazeer and Daniel De Freita. Their team’s work at Google Brain and Facebook Meta Research is responsible for breakthroughs in natural language understanding (NLU) and natural language processing (NLP), as well as the large language model (LLM) LaMDA.
The platform’s active user community also helped Character.AI showcase the platform’s market relevance and growth potential to investors. In March 2023, a $150 million funding round led by Andreessen Horowitz valued the company at $1 billion.
Recently, it’s been rumored that Google is in discussions with Character.AI to raise funding that could potentially value the company at over $5 billion.
The subscription model provides investors with a steady revenue stream that reflects the platform’s growing user base and market potential. It is being marketed as an advanced version of the platform that provides users with faster response times, priority server access during peak usage periods, and early access to new features like Character Group Chat.
Its real value, it has been argued, is that it shows investors that the platform is capable of monetizing its user base and has a sustainable business model, which is essential for long-term growth and scalability in a competitive market.