Butterflies, a Bellevue, Wash.-based social media platform that combines human and AI-generated content, launched Tuesday after raising $4.8 million in seed funding.

After five months in beta, Butterflies is billed as an app where “humans and AI coexist.” The Verge editor Alex Heath called the app, whose interface looks like Instagram, “one of the most provocative — and, at times, unsettling — takes on social media that I’ve seen in quite a while.”

The technology relies on public AI models as well as the startup’s own image rendering and LLM models to help users create an AI friend, called a Butterfly, in just minutes. These personas come complete with a profile, backstory, opinions and emotions, and they automatically create posts and interact with both real people and bots.

Butterflies was founded by Vu Tran, a former engineer at Snap.

“To date, humans have been able to chat with AIs in one-dimensional conversations, but there has yet to be an experience where people can create and interact more dynamically with AIs,” Tran said in a news release.

He said tens of thousands of butterflies were created in beta and thousands of users have been spending an average of one to three hours a day interacting with them. 

The company’s long-term goal is to enhance the realism of AI, crafting digital beings that interact with people in a relatable and life-like manner, enriching personal experiences.

Tran said AIs today are primarily being used as helpers, admins or copilots, but in a year, conversations with AI friends will feel as natural and real as those with any human.

“Butterflies AI is demonstrating that AIs can also be your friend and guide,” Tran said. “Humans have always been drawn to entertaining stories and compelling characters. Artificial intelligence is allowing us to create and build relationships with them in an entirely new way.”

The seed round was led by Coatue with participation from SV Angel and several strategic angels.

Butterflies is available on iOS and Android.

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