Snapchat’s AI chatbot is now free for all global users, says the AI will later ‘Snap’ you back

Snapchat’s AI chatbot is now opening up to a global audience, the company announced today at its Snap Partner Summit. Initially launched in February, the feature originally allowed Snapchat’s paid subscribers to chat with an AI chatbot powered by OpenAI’s GPT technology directly in its app. Now it will be available for free. To date, users have sent nearly 2 million messages per day using the chatbot, Snap noted. With today’s global expansion, the feature is also being upgraded with new functionality, including the ability to add My AI to group chats, get recommendations for places on Snap Map and Lenses, and share Snaps with My AI and receive chat replies.

Later, My AI will be able to respond with unique “generative” Snaps back, instead of just chat replies, the company also said, to keep the visual conversation going.

The idea to integrate AI into the Snapchat app was originally intended to give users another way to engage in the app while taking advantage of the growing consumer demand for ChatGPT-like experiences. The company suggested the feature could be used to do things like suggest birthday gift ideas for a BFF, plan a hiking trip, suggest dinner recipes or write a poem for a friend, among other things.

Unfortunately for Snap, the AI soon went off the rails. Only days after its debut, The Washington Post reported the bot was responding in an unsafe manner. Despite telling the bot the user was a young teen, aged 15, the bot made suggestions about how to mask the smell of alcohol and pot at a birthday party. It also wrote an essay for school for the teen. When the bot was told the user was 13, it responded to a question about how to set the mood when having sex for the first time.

Snap, in response, said users had been trying to “trick the chatbot into providing responses that do not conform to our guidelines,” and rolled out new tools including age filters to keep the AI responses more age-appropriate.

It also said it would introduce insights into its Family Center parental controls hub that helps parents and guardians stay informed about their kids’ interactions with the bot.

As of today’s global launch, Snap has still not done so and hasn’t indicated when the Family Center controls would go live, only noting they were still in the works.

In the meantime, the company is making the chatbot more appealing to younger users by allowing it into group chats with friends, where it can be added with an @ mention. Here, the bot will enter the chat with a sparkle next to its name to make it clear it’s a bot and not another group member.

The AI will also be able to suggest place recommendations or relevant Lenses. For instance, it could suggest weekend activities or a good Lens to use to wish a friend happy birthday, Snap says.

And it can now reply to your Snaps with a chat reply and later, it will be able to generate a visual response. The feature will be limited to Snapchat+ subscribers, however, even though My AI itself will now be free to use.

During today’s Partner Summit presentation, Snap CEO Evan Spiegel suggested that users who snapped a photo of their dog might get a funny dog photo back as a generative response, for example.

“Or if you send a Snap of the vegetables growing in your garden, My AI might recommend a recipe,” he added. “We can’t wait to see how our community embraces my AI.”

It’s not clear what sort of safety controls will be involved in the generative aspects. This could be another concern, as other generative AI apps, like Lensa AI, had been easily tricked into making NSFW images.

Other new personalization features will be introduced, too, including the ability to name your AI and create a custom Bitmoji for it to give your My AI more of an identity.

The feature, before today, was available only to Snapchat+ $3.99 per month subscription holders, which could be helping drive upgrades. Snap today also said that Snapchat+ now has more than 3 million subscribers. However, the AI will now be broadly available, with specific AI features being a paid upgrade.

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