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HomeasiaError-prone AI chatbot dog leads Japan's elderly astray

Error-prone AI chatbot dog leads Japan's elderly astray

TOKYO: A cartoon canine AI chatbot designed to cheer up and inform lonely older residents of western Japan is in the doghouse after providing error-laden responses.

Powered by generative artificial intelligence, “Dai-chan” was this year launched by Osaka authorities who called it the first of its kind in a country where one in 10 people is age 80 or older.

But the chatbot, which features a Shiba Inu cartoon dog and answers in the Osaka dialect, has shown itself far from faithful to the truth.

When a user asked about the World Expo planned in Osaka in 2025, the dog incorrectly responded that the event was cancelled.

That answer gained public attention, with Japanese newspapers and broadcasters reporting on the dog who got the wrong end of the stick.

“Dai-chan, you’re good,” one social media user joked.

Despite slow progress and budget challenges, the world fair is still scheduled to go ahead.

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Among other incorrect answers, Dai-chan said the “G7 foreign ministers’ meeting will be held on Nov 4” rather than the slated Nov 7 to Nov 8.

Asked by an AFP reporter if the mooted Sapporo Olympic Games will be pushed back, the bot dog said: “The Sapporo Olympics is postponed! It’s not cancelled so I look forward to it!”

Earlier this month, the Japanese Olympic Committee said Sapporo had given up its bid for the 2030 Winter Olympics as public support for hosting the games waned after a string of corruption scandals over the 2020 Tokyo Games.

Asked about the decision, Dai-chan responded: “The Olympic Committee decided to postpone! It is a decision considering safety! Good job, the Olympic Committee!”

The government has defended the chatbot.

Its purpose “is to broaden communication base for elderly people and not to give correct answer every time, and users seem to be enjoying Dai-chan with an understanding of the limits of what generative AI can do”, an Osaka official in charge of the project told AFP.

“Dai-chan is designed as a talking dog that is 10 years old (in terms of human intelligence) tasked with preventing elderly residents from becoming isolated,” Osaka governor Hirofumi Yoshimura told Japanese media.

Asked by AFP for his reaction, Dai-chan said: “Yes, yes, I often make mistakes, but it’s a bit hard that people report about it. But making mistakes is part of growth, isn’t it?”

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