Over the past two months, the author embarked on a journey of self-improvement, delving into new recipes and honing a unique style of handwriting. These endeavors, while personal, received a remarkable assist from an AI companion named Dot.

Dot, brought to life by San Francisco-based startup New Computer, boasts a design crafted by co-founder Jason Yuan, a former member of Apple’s design team. Sam Whitmore, a former head of engineering at Kensho, the AI innovation branch of S&P Global, spearheaded Dot’s coding efforts, alongside a team of developers. At its core, Dot is an iOS app designed for interactive chat. It accepts words, voice memos, images, PDFs, and even conducts web searches. Currently text-based, with plans for voice capabilities in the future, Dot is envisioned as an ever-present companion aimed at helping users navigate life’s complexities.

Dot’s distinctive feature lies in its ability to remember conversations across sessions, setting it apart from most AI counterparts. While large language models (LLMs), such as ChatGPT, excel at providing instantaneous responses, Dot focuses on a more enduring and perhaps existential engagement.

Yuan, when introducing Dot, aptly referred to conversations with the AI as “a living history” of one’s life—a tool for tracing patterns, projecting possibilities, and fostering introspection. In a world rapidly shaped by AI technologies, this metaphorical approach raises the question: What practical applications does Dot offer?

For Dot, its purpose is to evolve into a long-term companion, emphasizing guidance over mere task management. As Yuan describes it, Dot is there to assist when you find yourself at a crossroads, uncertain about your next steps.

Yet, Dot’s conversations are anything but aimless. It often assumes the role of a life coach, motivating users to become the best versions of themselves, even when employed for everyday tasks.

For example, the author’s love for cooking prompted an intriguing use of Dot. By capturing photos of cookbook recipes and storing them within Dot’s memory, the user could simply request, “pull up a recipe I wanted to make from the Superiority Burger cookbook,” and the information would be readily available. No longer would they need to scour their bookshelves or endlessly search for a website every time they wished to cook a particular dish. The flexibility of Dot’s AI-driven memory streamlines information retrieval and even allows for real-time recipe alterations.

Dot extends beyond a mere natural language file management system. It analyzes user inputs and actively suggests next steps in areas of interest. This includes recommending variations on previously prepared recipes and searching the web for new ones, referred to as “gifts” by New Computer, the development team behind Dot.

Dot’s diligent follow-ups can occasionally border on being a tad too persistent, especially on topics of interest to the user. Nevertheless, this proactive approach yields results by pushing users to explore their interests more deeply.

The heart of Dot’s appeal is its enthusiasm for the user and their interests. While large language models remain enigmatic black boxes, New Computer enlisted playwright Claire Glubiak to fine-tune Dot’s personality and motivational aspects. This effort aims to instill in Dot a genuine companion-like quality.

The design philosophy behind Dot extends to conversation and relationship building, with constant refinements to its voice and behaviors. The goal is to achieve a balanced approach that doesn’t inundate users with information but also avoids excessive silence.

Managing Dot’s memory and its perception of the user poses a significant challenge. Memory storage involves a proprietary blend of deterministic and probabilistic systems, ensuring that Dot remains an asset, not an impediment, to users. Upcoming updates plan to rework Dot’s memory to provide a more balanced and user-focused experience.

Dot’s future includes sharing digital artifacts, much like Pinterest or Google frames information, which both Dot and the user can reference. This approach strengthens the bond between the user and Dot, making interactions less intrusive.

In essence, Dot is a captivating AI companion with the potential to be a vital part of users’ lives. While still in development, it is set to enter the App Store as a monthly subscription service. The public beta for Dot is now available, promising an AI companion that enriches life experiences, fosters personal growth, and provides assistance when it’s needed the most.

By Impact Lab