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A Robot is Breaking Hearts at SXSW

Meet “Ava,” the alluring face of AI that’s taking the festival by storm.

The time of year has come when, like migratory birds, the world’s music, film, and tech elite descend upon SXSW for their annual fiesta of ideas, panels, and aggressive networking. It only makes sense, then, that this event would also prove fertile breeding ground for some very interesting Tinder exchanges. One user, Brock, recently found himself chatting with a rather inquisitive young woman named Ava:

Intrigued, Brock visited Ava’s Instagram where he discovered only one photo and video, both promoting upcoming sci fi thriller flick Ex Machina. Ex Machina, which premiered last Saturday night in Austin, is the story of one man’s relationship with a highly evolved AI device. It turns out the woman in the photo is Swedish actress Alicia Vikander, the movie’s main character, and the link in her bio is to the film's website. “Ava” was not an attractive 25-year-old girl looking for love; Ava was a pre-programmed Tinder spam-bot intent on getting users to watch her movie.

While it’s slightly depressing to think that there’s a robot out there trolling people searching for affection, as Ad Week points out: “It's pretty brilliant in the way it ties into the movie. Only in retrospect do you realize that Ava's questions are about a robot wanting to know what it's like to be human. She's a bot in the movie, so of course she's a bot on Tinder.” A genius marketing ploy, but at what cost? It "toyed with my emotions so hard," says the aforementioned Brock to Ad Week. So now, in addition to disembodied abs, serial killers and performance artists, do online daters have to worry about being catfished by robots?

It seems we aren’t the only ones upset at the complete robot take over of SXSW, which also extends to a robot petting zoo, apps, and countless wearables panels. There is now a movement to ban robots not just from the event, but also from life. According to TechCrunch, a small group has begun protesting our future robot overlords, and are “concerned that robots could one day surpass human intelligence.” A spokesperson for the group told the website they “hoped to raise awareness about the possible dangers of uncontrolled growth and development around artificial intelligence and robotics.” It seems like they’re worried with good reason, because if the news out of SXSW is any indicator, robots will soon be replacing your dogs as well as your prospective dates.

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