New app Cloe is a dutiful concierge service you can text to request a good jazz club or microbrewery and get an informed, cheery response in a minute or less. Think of the mad research skills of Siri with the personality of Samantha, the AI operating system from the movie Her.
Need a tailor? Cloe may ask if you need a custom shirt made or just a button sewn on a jacket before she sends you a recommendation based on where you are standing at that very moment.
But Cloe also has a life. When I tested her knowledge of Ethiopian restaurants in Brooklyn on Sunday night, I received a text message that she had “stepped out.”
About 40 minutes later, I received a text that said, “Hi David, sorry I stepped out for a mani-pedi :).”
She then fired off two messages with the name of a restaurant in the heart of Fort Greene, complete with an address, phone number, website and the name of a dish she endorsed with, “Yum!”
Cloe even engages in some playful banter. When I inquired whether I was communicating with a live person, Cloe coyly replied, “I’m as real as a Georgia peach.”
“Siri is amazing for a lot of things, but I don’t use it for social discovery,” said Chase Hildebrand, co-founder and CEO of the company Meet Cloe. “Sometimes you miss that personal component and I feel like we have found a way to make technology human. It could be like having a best friend in every city.”
The service launched in New York City last month, is currently growing a following in San Francisco and will expand to two or three other major cities by the summer, according to its developers.
Cloe is free and works off your phone’s existing message app. While Cloe pulls information from more than 80 different categories, from restaurants to green dry cleaners, there is a human that monitors incoming messages and ensures responses are helpful, fun and friendly.
Hildebrand said about 25 percent of the operation involves that human touch and Cloe’s Sunday night “mani-pedi” may reveal the challenges the company faces as it grows the service.
The company is working to make it a 24/7 operation but for now, Cloe must be thought of as a friend you can reach during reasonable times of the day, Hildebrand said.
Cloe is similar to ChaCha, a search engine founded in 2006 that answers questions on both computers and smartphones with the help of human guides. Another service, Ethan, gives advice and recommendations, offers opinions and will engage people with a fun and edgy personality like Cloe.
Hildebrand will not say how many people are using Cloe in New York City or San Francisco, but there is a waiting list of about 2,000 people to get their cell numbers signed up for service. The company is working quickly to shrink the list and hire more people to assist Cloe, he said.
Hildebrand and co-founder Paige Skinner conducted a test service at a New York City bar about a year ago. Around 500 people used the service more than 7,000 times in one week, giving them the confidence to roll out Cloe, according to a report in Tech Crunch.
“We’re scaling extremely well right now,” Hildebrand said. “We knew there was going to be interest and we got inundated. The demand has been wonderful.”
Cloe will next hit Los Angeles and when I asked her when she would be in Chicago, she said, “I’m quite the jet-setter, so hopefully by this summer.”