Companies with poor customer service have a new force to reckon with — KarenAI.
Created by senior information systems major Fady Yanni and senior computer science and mathematics major Pranav Shikarpur, KarenAI is an artificial intelligence-powered chatbot and voice synthesizer intended to mimic the notorious Karen figure by generating complaints to companies, organizations or anywhere else users might take issue with.
With this program, a person can input their complaint’s details and KarenAI will generate an assertive response that is sure to catch the attention of any customer service representative.
Yanni and Shikarpur shared that, like many, they were first exposed to the concept of the Karen through TikTok, especially during the pandemic when the anti-mask movement became popular. Yanni found humor in Karens, and wondered what it’d be like to apply his own passions towards the concept.
Yanni first had the idea to develop the KarenAI in 2020, when he experienced poor customer service from a major telecommunications company. He applied to a startup incubator with the name “Karen,” and then built the program with Shikarpur for this university’s 2023 Bitcamp hackathon last month. The program won second prize in the event.
Shikarpur, who built the voice synthesizing model, wanted KarenAI to stand out in its ability to verbally communicate and with an attitude.
“A lot of these services don’t really have a personality to them,” he said. “We thought it would be very interesting if we could take Karens out in the wild, get their voice samples collected over from Youtube, TikTok and other social media platforms, and train a voice cloning AI.”
Yanni and Shikarpur first met through this university’s Startup Shell, a central hub for like-minded entrepreneurs and creators. Here, the two work together and collaborated through their unique ideas and interests.
Shikarpur also has a startup called Lingo, where he worked with popular YouTube creators to dub their videos in different languages. Yanni said that this startup was a helpful resource for Shikarpur in developing the voice of KarenAI.
Yanni’s short-term goal was to find a way to obtain decent customer service. However, his ambitions escalated to winning at Bitcamp and hopefully developing an actual business.
“I think the true goal is really to empower the consumer,” Yanni said. “Although it’s kind of gimmicky, [the program] does have a lot of applications for people that might have anxiety with speaking to customer support.”
Yanni hopes to see KarenAI perform as a paid service in the future that would access people’s accounts with certain companies and complain on their behalf.
Shikarpur also thinks that KarenAI has a great deal of potential in becoming a unique and helpful business.
“I think audio AI is a very unexplored field, and it’s growing day by day,” he said. “I think there are definitely potential dangers in terms of people being able to clone voices for malicious intent, but I think there are definitely a lot more pros than there are cons.”