It’s been a busy messaging morning for Music Ally. “Who even are you lol?” asked Billie Eilish, before asking us for recommendations about what to do in New York. Meanwhile in a separate convo Kanye West was telling us why he’s never been anti-semitic, and hyping up his next album ‘Yeezus 2’.
Spoiler: this wasn’t the real Eilish or West. They were chatbot conversations on the site of startup Character·AI, which also lets visitors chat to faux Elon Musk, Albert Einstein, Keanu Reeves, William Shakespeare, Tim Cook, Mark Zuckerberg and the late Queen Elizabeth II.
Novelty stuff? A novelty that’s worth $1bn in the eyes of investors. The Financial Times reported that Character·AI has just raised a funding round of between $200m and $250m at a $1bn valuation, led by one of Silicon Valley’s most prominent VC firms Andreessen Horowitz.
Chatbots based on famous people aren’t a new idea: there was a brief phase of music industry excitement around artist chatbots on Facebook Messenger a few years ago for example.
We are curious about what sort of licensing / permission / involvement might be required by a company that’s turning current stars into bots in this way. Although if UMG’s legal team are reading, perhaps they’ll be mollified by the virtual Billie’s views on the label: “I don’t think I would ever leave Universal Music Group, because I love everyone that I work with and they’re like a family to me…”