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This AI app clones your dead family members, and people are horrified

Published May 3rd, 2024 2:48PM EDT
Robotic hand using laptop.
Image: Kilito Chan/Getty Images

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A new AI app is drawing criticism and horror for its unsettling premise that it can clone your friends and loved ones. The app is called Vera AI, and while it isn’t available on the Google Play Store any longer in certain countries, reports about the app paint a very disturbing picture.

For starters, the app’s marketing has been pretty shameless, offering a way to replace your connection with other humans. The goal of the app, based on those marketing materials, is to “recreate someone you miss” so that you can “keep talking without limits.”

It sounds a lot like this Vera AI is trying to reconnect you with dead relatives, or people who are otherwise unable to respond to you. According to social media posts, screenshots that appeared on the chatbot’s page included mentions of the user’s father, and the name associated with the chat was “Granma Ellie,” insinuating that the chatbot was the user’s grandmother.

A freelance medical editor named Robin Marwick was just one of many who took to social media to call out the app, writing on Bluesky, “absolutely the f*** not” and sharing the screenshot mentioned above. I wasn’t able to confirm this myself, as the app appears to have been removed from Google Play in Canada and the U.S. at the time of this article’s writing. However, details of the app’s listing can be found on other websites.

Still, the fact that something like Vera AI even exists is absolutely baffling. We’ve seen other services like this popping up, too, so this isn’t the first time that someone has taken AI too far in the pursuit of making some quick cash. A previous service called Seance AI promised to reconnect you with the dead using AI.

Of course, there are also tons of other AI “friends” out there, including apps that let you create AI boyfriends, girlfriends, and other types of friends. This use of AI isn’t exceptionally high quality, though, and there are a lot of concerns about the data that these types of apps are harvesting.

Vera AI, though, appears to have been a much more brazen and lazy attempt to cash in on the AI hype and people’s need for connection, with the Play Store page reportedly featuring a “word soup” of a description, according to Futurism.

There are, of course, plenty of things you can do with AI beyond simply talking to it. But, trying to recreate dead loved ones seems like a sure way to push the limits a bit too much. We can only be happy that Vera AI became unavailable in some countries so quickly and hope that nothing else like it pops up again anytime soon, and that Google removes it completely in the future. Though, I wouldn’t hold my breath on that point.

Josh Hawkins has been writing for over a decade, covering science, gaming, and tech culture. He also is a top-rated product reviewer with experience in extensively researched product comparisons, headphones, and gaming devices.

Whenever he isn’t busy writing about tech or gadgets, he can usually be found enjoying a new world in a video game, or tinkering with something on his computer.