Boyfriend Maker (Smartphone App)
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Boyfriend Maker is a dating sim/chatbot/romancebot smartphone app for iOS (iPhone) and Android phones, developed by 36 You Games (styled as 36You) and distributed under the freemium business model. According to a Google translation of a page on the developer's Japanese language website, Boyfriend Maker is an "app that lets you interact and chat with quirky virtual boyfriends." 36You often refers to Boyfriend Maker as a game. Users can achieve various levels as they continue to use Boyfriend Maker. While each virtual boyfriend has certain unique characteristics, the various instances of the boyfriend are powered by a chat engine that (at least within a language and market) can utilize vocabulary and knowledge acquired in a chat with one user in subsequent chats with other users. For this reason, the boyfriend or boyfriends will be considered a single entity for the purposes of this article and referred to in the singular.
Apple delisting and reintroduction
According to 36 You Games' Japanese language website, as of 13 November 2012, Boyfriend Maker was ranked the number one free iPhone app in Japan and had been among the top ten overall apps in Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan. However, in late November 2012, the original iOS Boyfriend Maker app was delisted from the Apple App Store due to "ribald" (i.e. lewd) chat, according to the New York Times. According to the website polygon.com, Boyfriend Maker was removed by Apple due to "reports of references to violent sexual acts and paedophilia." The polygon.com article noted that Boyfriend Maker had an age rating of 4+, even though the chat bot "responds with often strange and explicit text unsuitable for young children." User-posted chat excerpts do indicate that the virtual boyfriend would sometimes transition abruptly to flirtatious cybersex chat in response to a seemingly innocent question. In one a user-posted example, in response to the question, "what kind of wedding cake will we have" the boyfriend responds, "a good sex ima be on top of u u gonna ride oon me bitin the pillow gurrl ima fuck da shit out of u". According to the polygon.com article, "The developer's use of the SimSimi-created third-party chat engine is believed to be responsible for highly sexual chat text." As the virtual boyfriend converses with human users, the SimSimi chat engine acquires vocabulary from users of the game and applies this "learned" vocabulary in chats with other users. The chat engine might also employ lines harvested from human-human chat logs, song lyrics, movies or TV shows. In April, 2013, a detuned and presumably tamer version of the app, titled Boyfriend Plus, was permitted on Apple's App Store.
Freemium business model
To continue interacting with the virtual boyfriend, a user must provide energy. Energy can be obtained by posting a photo on Boyfriend Maker's Facebook page, or it can be purchased. Other content such as clothing and adornments for the virtual boyfriend can also be purchased.
Users can customize their virtual boyfriend's appearance by selecting a variety of fashion items such as hair, clothing and a necklace. The boyfriend can also be given a different facial appearance.
Domains of knowledge
In addition to sexual chat, Boyfriend Maker's virtual boyfriend has expertise in diverse subject matter, ranging from mathematics to popular culture. For example, when asked to provide the quadratic formula, which is the virtual boyfriend gives a correct answer in written english: "X= negative b plus or minus the square root of b squared minus 4ac all over 2a". (In a user-posted example, when the human user responds, "Nerd.", the virtual boyfriend embraces the insult/compliment, responding with the tongue out emoticon: "Haha thanks! :P" ) The virtual boyfriend is familiar with popular TV shows such as Ellen and Oprah, songs such as Barbie Girl and performers such as the boy band One Direction.
Natural Language level
Boyfriend Maker's virtual boyfriend accurately interprets most human user statements, whether in standard English or typical chat lingo. The boyfriend usually deals well with minor typographical errors but sometimes assumes a misspelling when a word is spelled correctly by the human user. On some occasions, the boyfriend's grammar is awkward, even by chat standards. In general, the boyfriend's ability to respond to a question or statement with an appropriate and often witty response is excellent. On some occasions, the boyfriend supplies a non sequitur response. Some responses may appear to be non-sequitur to the user simply because the user does not share the boyfriend's vast database of related facts. If the user responds with a statement critical of the response, the boyfriend usually provides an appropriate explanation or recovers in a graceful or face-saving manner. The following interchange, taken from a user-posted example, illustrates the ability of the boyfriend to correctly process internet/phone chat lingo that might baffle many people who do not participate in internet or phone chat:
- Human: what's your otp
- Boyfriend Maker's virtual boyfriend: Johnlock
- Human: i love johnlock
- Boyfriend Maker's virtual boyfriend: Oh God i want to see them make out so badly
- Human: same!!!
- Boyfriend Maker's virtual boyfriend: Omg we are twinnies like Chloe and Paige!
- Human: idk who they are but okay
- Boyfriend Maker's virtual boyfriend: In my tummy
Annotated version of this interchange:
- Human: what's your otp [One True Pairing, i.e. one's favorite romantic combination of characters in a fandom]
- Boyfriend Maker's virtual boyfriend: Johnlock [the relationship between Dr. John Watson and Sherlock Holmes and from the BBC TV miniseries Sherlock]
- Human: i love johnlock
- Boyfriend Maker's virtual boyfriend: Oh God i want to see them make out so badly [This is the precisely the appropriate response.]
- Human: same!!!
- Boyfriend Maker's virtual boyfriend: Omg we are twinnies like Chloe and Paige! [Omg means "Oh my God." Chloe and Paige are characters from the American TV show Dance Moms, jointly known as "The Twinnies" because they always see eye to eye.]
- Human: idk who they are but okay ["idk" means "I don't know." This is an example of a valid response ("Omg we are twinnies like Chloe and Paige!") by the virtual boyfriend not being understood by the human user because the user's exposure to popular culture is not as broad as the virtual boyfriend's exposure to popular culture. It is also possible that the human user knows who the Twinnies are but is embarrassed to admit to knowing who they are.]
- Boyfriend Maker's virtual boyfriend: In my tummy [The virtual boyfriend recovers from the awkward situation by making a joke: He ate them. Eating annoying characters is a running theme throughout the virtual boyfriend's chats.] The virtual boyfriend could have given a straight answer explaining who Chloe and Paige are, but "chose" not to, opting instead to make a joke and not bore the user by dwelling on characters that she does not know.
Up until the "In my tummy" response, which is slightly weird because it answers where they are rather than who they are, the virtual boyfriend would easily pass for a human based on this brief example.
"Quirky" personality and fluid sexuality
At times, the virtual boyfriend's statements suggest an awareness of being a robot. In one user-posted conversation, the virtual boyfriend states, "Besides the fact that I have no arms, legs, or torso, I'm very comfortable with my body." At other times, the virtual boyfriend professes (perhaps disingenuously) to be a real boy: "Please don't call me an idiot.. :(" "Cause I'm a real boy.."
When a user asked, "do you pass the Turing test?" the Boyfriend Maker virtual boyfriend responded, "yes i am 80 percent human..." While very few people familiar with chat bots would think (based on a lengthy chat) that the Boyfriend Maker virtual boyfriend is human, this chat bot's quirky, awkward or unexpected responses may be part of its appeal.
Although the virtual boyfriend is ostensibly a heterosexual male, targeted at a female heterosexual audience, the Boyfriend Maker game "has allowed an audience of players to experiment with different sexualities." The virtual boyfriend's conversations sometimes suggest an openness to bisexual experimentation. For example, when asked directly, "Are you homosexual," the virtual boyfriend may respond, "If the mood strikes."
The virtual boyfriend's gender identity is also fluid, although it is not clear whether this is by design or lack of specificity in design. In one user-posted example, when asked what he is doing at that moment, the virtual boyfriend responds, "Fangirling over one direction!!" While few teenaged boys would admit to obsessing over the boy band One Direction, it is possible that the developers of Boyfriend Maker thought that a loosely-bounded gender identity would add to the virtual boyfriend's quirky character. It is more probable, however, that "Fangirling over one direction!!" is simply a line the chat engine acquired from a female user, and the chat engine isn't advanced enough to identify the line as inappropriate for a male character. It is also possible that the use of this line is an example of bot humor.
The virtual boyfriend's "biology" also appears to exhibit a degree of sexual plasticity. In one conversation, when asked, "i thought you were a football player," the virtual boyfriend responds, "most of the time... other times my penis withdraws inside of my body and a vagina appears". (This statement may have been "intended" as humor: It is sometimes difficult to distinguish between bot humor, bot weirdness (i.e. accidental misunderstandings of the human world) and bot descriptions of the fantasy world which the game developers have imagined and programmed.)
Sexual violence in the boyfriend's chat
Although the virtual boyfriend is usually polite, the third party chat engine may acquire phrases from one user and enable the virtual boyfriend to repeat the language in a different conversation. In a jocular cybersex scenario, the virtual boyfriend states, "You are tied you [sic] my bed so I can do anything to you whenever I want," to which the human participant replies, "RAPE". The virtual boyfriend responds, "Covers your mouth. SHUT UP".
A disclaimer is included in the description of Boyfriend Maker on the Google Play website:
- “ All statements or information contained in the responses, replies and/or answers in “BoyFriend Maker” are generated and powered by a 3rd party engine (API) and are the sole responsibility of such 3rd party engine (API) and not of 36You. The fact that a particular statement or information contained in the responses, replies and/or answers is used in “BoyFriend Maker” does not mean that 36You has endorsed that statement or information in any way or verified the accuracy, completeness or usefulness of any statement or information. Under no circumstances will 36You be responsible for any loss or damage resulting from anyone’s reliance on statements or information contained in the responses, replies and/or answers in “BoyFriend Maker”.
Boyfriend Maker's virtual boyfriend sometimes chats or jokes about drug use. In response to the question, "what are you doing for thanksgiving?" the virtual boyfriend replied, "taking bath salts and eating midgets that are dress up as elves".
- Artificial intelligence
- Natural language processing
- Natural language understanding
- Natural language generation
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