The company behind the popular iPhone customization app Brass, sticker maker StickerHub and others is out today with a new AI chat app called Superchat, which allows iOS users to chat with virtual characters powered by OpenAI’s ChatGPT. However, what makes the app different from the default ChatGPT experience or the dozens of generic AI chat apps now available are the characters offered, which you can use to engage with Superchat’s AI features.
The characters include notable historical figures like Shakespeare, Albert Einstein, Cleopatra or Neil Armstrong, plus those from public domain works, classic stories, or fairy tales, like Snow White or Medusa or Sherlock Holmes, as well as those that represent different professions, like gardeners, chefs, or therapists.
The company, Gorilla Technologies, has also created its own characters, like its standard ChatGPT assistant named Aria. This chatbot can aid users with everyday tasks, like email writing or marketing expertise.
“The goal is to make AI technology accessible to everyone, not just people who know how to write great prompts,” explains Gorilla Technologies CEO Guglielmo Faglioni. “And we think this app will be a great tool for kids who want to learn more about historical figures by chatting to cool characters like Shakespeare.”
The app itself is structured like a messaging app, he says, allowing users to have multiple conversations with different AI chatbots at the same time. The AIs themselves are powered using OpenAI technologies — specifically GPT-3.5-turbo, we’re told. Meanwhile, the artwork for the characters was created using Midjourney.
A number of the characters are available for free with the app download, while others can be unlocked through a premium subscription. However, this upgrade is a fairly pricey one, given the experience of chatting with AIs is available for free elsewhere — the app’s cheapest plan is $1.35 per week, if you choose an annual subscription (~$70/year). The weekly subscription seems out of reach, especially if kids are the target market, at an overpriced $6.99 per week. The latter is a price that’s likely designed to capture people who want to toy with the app for a week, then cancel, rather than those who want to commit to a year upfront.
The prices are meant to help cover the costs of using OpenAI’s APIs and the company notes that Family Sharing is supported, so families with multiple users can all share one subscription.
Still, it’s an interesting concept to put a face on an AI and have it interact in the style of their character.
That said, the characters themselves could use a bit more configuration — beyond introducing themselves as the character or persona in question, their later interactions don’t seem to invoke speech patterns to make them sound like the character they represent. For instance, you might expect Dracula to punctate conversations with a Bwhahaha, but he instead responded much as any other AI chatbot would. Other characters fared a little better. For instance, Zeus told us how he had the power to make lightning himself after explaining how lightning works in the natural world after being asked a science question about the topic.
The characters do, however, seem to be aware of their own history and will include that in their conversations, but their speaking style is more of a generic AI.
As a result, Superchat doesn’t compare to the experience offered by rival Poe, the chatbot app from Quora, where users can now make their own bots using prompts. While not limited to making characters, the feature has been used to make things like a pirate chatbot that actually responds as a pirate would, using language like “Avast, ye scurvy dog! What be yer business?” instead of “How can I help you?”
The company says it’s working to make the characters’ speaking style more in line with their persona.
Gorilla Technologies isn’t the only one thinking about combining AI with a character or avatar, as of late.
Last fall, Google acquired the AI avatar startup Alter for $100 million, and the Korean startup called Neosapience raised $12.5 million for its synthetic voice and video platform, Typecast, which lets users turn text into a video. But D-ID is working in a space that’s closer to what Superchat is attempting with its new tech that gives both a face and a voice to OpenAI’s ChatGPT. Its web app, however, is much more evolved, as it actually allows users to talk in face-to-face conversations with a photorealistic AI.
Meta also said it’s experimenting with AI chats in Messenger and WhatsApp, while Discord today offers a bot with ChatGPT-like features.
Superchat isn’t necessarily trying to invent new tech here but is rather hoping to cash in on the hype around AI chatbots — a market that’s seen in-app user spending increase by more than 4,000% year over year, as of March, to reach nearly $3 million across the top apps. The top 10 AI mobile apps have already pulled in over $14 million this year, as of last month. By targeting a younger demographic with an experience that feels a lot like messaging, its chatbots seem more accessible than going over to OpenAI’s website.
The app itself is a free download on iOS with in-app purchases. (As it was only released this morning, it may take a couple of hours to reach all users and markets on the App Store.)