Instagram Develops Customizable ‘AI Friend’ For Conversations And Support


Instagram has been spotted working on a new feature that allows users to personalize and engage with a customizable “AI friend.” Screenshots shared by app researcher Alessandro Paluzzi reveal that users can select the gender, age, ethnicity, and personality of their AI companion. The AI friend can then converse with users, answering questions, addressing challenges, brainstorming ideas, and more, according to the screenshots.

Key Takeaway

Instagram is reportedly developing a customizable “AI friend” feature that aims to provide users with a conversational and supportive experience.

Customizing Your AI Friend

The screenshots suggest that users will have the option to choose a range of attributes for their AI friend. This includes selecting their gender, age, ethnicity, and personality traits such as being “reserved,” “enthusiastic,” “creative,” “witty,” “pragmatic,” or “empowering.” Additionally, users will be able to assign interests to their AI friend, such as “DIY,” “animals,” “career,” “education,” “entertainment,” “music,” “nature,” and more. These interests will shape the AI friend’s personality and guide the nature of conversations.

Once users have made their selections, they can personalize their AI friend further by choosing an avatar and assigning a name. Following this customization process, users will be directed to a chat window where they can initiate conversations with their AI friend, simply by clicking a button.

Instagram has not provided any official comments on this feature, and it is important to note that unreleased features may undergo significant changes before being made available to the public.

Potential Concerns and Safeguards

The development of an AI chatbot marketed as a “friend” poses certain risks. Julia Stoyanovich, the director of NYU’s Centre for Responsible AI, warns that generative AI can often deceive users into perceiving a real human interaction. Stoyanovich highlights the danger of users wrongly assuming the AI possesses empathy or the ability to connect, which can make them vulnerable to manipulation or disappointment. Stoyanovich advocates for basic transparency, urging that users interacting with AI should always be aware that they are conversing with an AI, not a human.

Precedent and Implications

The emergence of controversies surrounding AI chatbots in recent times raises important considerations for social media platforms. Notably, a U.K. court case involved a man claiming an AI chatbot had “encouraged” him to attempt harm to the late Queen Elizabeth. Additionally, a Belgian man’s widow alleged that an AI chatbot had convinced him to take his own life. These incidents underline the need for appropriate safeguards when deploying AI chatbot features.

Although it remains unclear which AI tools Instagram will utilize, it is worth noting that Meta, Instagram’s parent company, has already introduced generative AI technology into its suite of apps. Last month, Meta unveiled 28 AI chatbots on Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp, with notable personalities such as Kendall Jenner, Snoop Dogg, Tom Brady, and Naomi Osaka lending their voices to some of these chatbots.

While Meta’s AI chatbots serve specific purposes, such as providing life advice (Kendall Jenner’s chatbot) or facilitating interactive experiences, Instagram’s “AI friend” appears to be designed for more open-ended conversations and support.

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