Forever alone? More like never alone! “Watching Cute Girl” is a free Japanese app that’s pretty much what it sounds like. Launch the app on your iPhone, and a cute girl looks out at you from the screen, periodically saying something charming or offering to give you a (virtual) hug.
Watching the demo video, it’s clear that the app is the latest in a long line of Japanese inventions that attempt to solve the enduring problem of social isolation. These range from anime body pillows (often used as “girlfriends”) to the hugging coat that automatically hugs its wearer and the ramen bowl with an iPhone mount (actually a great idea for anyone).
It’s another step toward the technology featured in Spike Jonze’s Her: virtual people that we can interact (and possibly fall in love, or at least obsession) with. It also brings to mind Japan’s hostess culture, in which women are paid to idly flirt and spend time with solo businessmen. This app seems slightly less exploitative, but still more than a little strange. Do you really want a spruced-up Tamagotchi to be your girlfriend?
Reviews of the app show that the answer is actually, yes, people do. "It makes for good company for whenever I'm busy studying or doing work on the computer," reviewer Moylan writes. "And it runs very smoothly!"