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AI chatbot to help young Chinese with family interaction

People increasingly use the new AI game to ‘train’ for social interaction before the coming Lunar New Year.
| Photo Credit: AFP

Young Chinese flocking home for Lunar New Year this weekend have turned to an AI chatbot game to help train for the most dreaded social interaction of the year — the dinner table interrogation by nosy relatives.

The annual inquisition as extended families gather for China’s biggest festival is a cultural touchstone across the country, portrayed in films, books and articles and bemoaned every year online.

The new game, which uses an AI chatbot to simulate the barrage of squirm-inducing questions young people can expect to face — “Got a partner yet? When are you getting married? How much did you earn last year?” — was developed by a group of students for a competition in just 24 hours.

But Epic Showdown: New Year Reunion gained over three million users within a week of its release at the end of January, before its servers crashed because of over-popularity.

“At the beginning, everyone thought this was a game that dissed relatives,” one of the creators, Wang Ziyue, said.

“But later, people realised they could use it to find how to communicate with their loved ones and make them happy,” the 21-year-old said.

The game features a cast of 10 relatives of varying degrees of disapproving, prying or caring.

Ms. Wang said the game was designed to help cross-generational communication.

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