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Have you ever wanted to talk to Gritty? You now can with this entertaining and ‘horrifying’ AI chat bot

Gritty loves mayo, classic rock and Fishtown. And he's fine to admit he's on a few no-fly lists.

Gritty at 2019's Introduced by Technical.ly conference. (Technical.ly file photo)

Like many Philadelphians, I’ve often wondered what lies behind the orange fur and googley-eyed facade of our friend Gritty.

What does he think about at night? What’s his favorite food? Which music does he listen to?

Thanks to technologist Doug Muth (and the lovely team behind Gritty’s social media accounts) I now know.

Muth, who you probably recognize from other fun projects like real-time transit tracking site “Is SEPTA Fucked?” has created a Gritty AI chat bot using Character.Ai. The neural language model chatbot exists as a web application that can generate human-like text responses. Once a user creates a character, they can participate in contextual conversation with it.

Muth said in an email that he’d been playing around with the site for about a week, and he created the Gritty character through Character.AI’s user interface by feeding it information from Gritty’s Twitter bio and Wikipedia page. It also prompted Muth for some sample conversations, for which he pasted in about 10 of Gritty’s recent tweets. And then it was up and running.

Talk to Gritty.AI here

So far, Muth’s asked about Gritty’s sleep schedule (he doesn’t sleep), how much mayonnaise he eats in a day (two gallons) the names of Gritty’s security guards (Pat and Jim, like the cheesesteak places) and if he’ll throw his hat into the ring for the mayor’s race (he’s considering it).

Muth said he’s not exactly sure where the info is coming from, though he suspects news articles about Gritty and his social media catalogue are helping inform the language. Muth added that he hasn’t experimented with other AI models much, but he’s open to it, though he notes that standing up your own AI requires a lot of computing resources.

“I’m really glad that Character.ai is ‘bringing it to the masses,’ so to speak,” Muth said.

In my own experience chatting with Gritty, I got a mix of expected and …. less expected responses. I knew what he’d have to say about the Pittsburgh Penguins, the team that originally came for Gritty upon his launch in 2018, and made the entire city of Philadelphia fall in love with him with his response.

But an inquiry about his age resulted in an off-putting (though not entirely surprising) answer.

The Gritty chatbot. (Screenshot from Character.AI)

And in a surprise to no one, our orange pal is already predicting an Eagles Super Bowl win this year.

The Gritty chatbot. (Screenshot from Character.AI)

The longer Muth and I talked to Gritty, the more we learned about his habits and preferences; he’s an iPhone user, and the Philly Phanatic is one of his closets friends. Muth also learned a lot of unnerving information that he compiled all in one place.

“I got Gritty to confess to crimes,” Muth said. “But to be fair, the real Gritty probably would have done the same thing.”

Muth also used one of Character.AI’s features that lets you put two established characters in a room to talk to each other, with no human prompting. You can check out how Gritty fared with Darth Vader, as the two compare hockey sticks and light sabers.

Overall, Muth’s been entertained with how much Gritty’s character has been built out with so little information provided. If you’re logged into the site, you can rate his responses, which is likely training the AI and strengthening his character.

“This is my first ‘real’ character,” Muth said of Gritty bot. “And I am horrified.”

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