Virtual 'boy' granted real residency in Tokyo

Shibuya ward in Tokyo has given a special residence certificate to "Shibuya Mirai", a bot that does not exist physically but that can have conversations with humans on the Line messaging app.
Shibuya ward in Tokyo has given a special residence certificate to "Shibuya Mirai", a bot that does not exist physically but that can have conversations with humans on the Line messaging app.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

TOKYO • An AI character was made an official resident of a busy central Tokyo district yesterday, with the virtual newcomer resembling a chatty seven-year-old boy.

The boy named "Shibuya Mirai" does not exist physically, but he can have text conversations with humans on the widely used Line messaging app.

Tokyo's Shibuya Ward, an area popular with fashion-conscious young people, has given the character his very own special residence certificate.

This makes him Japan's - and maybe the world's - first artificial intelligence bot to be granted a place on a real-life local registry.

Mirai, whose name means "future" in Japanese, is supposed to be a first grader at an elementary school.

He can reply to messages and make light-hearted alterations to selfies he is sent.

Shibuya said the project aimed to make the district's local government more familiar to residents and allow officials to hear their opinions.

"His hobbies are taking pictures and observing people. And he loves talking with people... Please talk to him about anything," the ward said in a statement with Microsoft, the joint developer of the AI character.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 05, 2017, with the headline 'Virtual 'boy' granted real residency in Tokyo'. Print Edition | Subscribe