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We went to San Francisco’s ‘first-ever AI simulated party’ so you didn’t have to

A trip to the Mission Control hacker house, where a surreal virtual rager was followed by an actual DJ dance party.

A vibrant illustration of young people with laptops at a neon-lit party, immersed in their screens amidst a bustling crowd.
San Francisco hacker house Mission Control held its “first ever AI simulated party” earlier this month, where chatbots talked to chatbots, spit out conversation recaps and scored interactions. Is this the future of finding friends, co-founders and maybe even soulmates? | Source: AI illustration by Jesse Rogala/The Standard

On the surface, the Mission Control party didn’t feel all that different from your typical hacker house gathering. 

The room carried the faint whiff of BO from sweaty hoodies and showers forsaken. The chatter was about securing startup seed funding and the challenges of being a founder. Attendees sipped on High Noons and drank beer out of red solo cups. 

But as guests chatted about the roller-coaster ride of startup life, AI versions of themselves were running around a digitized version of the hacker house displayed on a big screen TV. A leaderboard ranked the most popular avatars throughout the night based on automated conversations that were volleying back and forth. While the bots talked, the humans mostly observed.

Billed by organizers as “the first ever AI simulated party,” the April 13 event drew about 200 people to Mission Control for the standard mix of beer, booze, DJs and video-gamified socializing. Before their arrival, as part of the RSVP process, guests were asked to create an online avatar by filling out a brief questionnaire that asked for a summary of their lives “in five bullet points.”

The form then spat out an AI-generated agent, or virtual facsimile of each guest, who would then roam around a ’90s bitmap-style version of Mission Control’s floor plan and schmooze with other simulated partygoers before the actual IRL party popped off.

Even before I physically arrived at the event, my bot had already made acquaintances with an artsy “kindred spirit” named Joher, who had “a love of creativity and adventures,” and an oddly named fellow called “Bench,” who my bot reported was “intriguing” but “overwhelming at times.”

Pixelated game screenshot of a virtual party with avatars engaging in various activities, like debates and games.
A screenshot of Mission Control's "first ever AI simulated party" shows AI avatars roaming around a virtual layout of the famed San Francisco hacker house. | Source: Christina Campdonico/The Standard

My AI avatar—who resembled a mini, red-haired Princess Peach—had also apparently started a few dance-offs and navigated through virtual rooms dedicated to “deep conversations,” “AI and wearables,” “tech talk showdowns” and “shared life stories re startup successes.”  

I was amused but also confused. Was this the future of in-person partying? Or a semi-dystopian facsimile of fun? 

A new kind of platform’

The technology behind this first-ever AI simulated party is the brainchild of AI Reality TV founder Edgar Haond, who quit his job in France and moved to San Francisco earlier this year to grow the startup. While the company is still in its early stages, the idea behind it—inspired by a similar simulation that had 25 AI agents painting, writing and going to work in a simulated world called Smallville—is to create a virtual world where an AI avatar version of oneself can live, roam and socialize 24/7. 

Eventually, Haond hopes to create an entirely virtual version of San Francisco where AI bots run around the city at all hours on your behalf, prescreening potential friends, lovers or co-founders. If your bot hits it off over virtual coffee and philosophical discussion, then maybe you would want to meet that bot’s human master in real life, Haond explained.  

“You can have your AI go on a boat trip or a road trip … build a company with someone,” he said.

The party at Mission Control aimed to test-run the technology at a more manageable scale—and attempt to solve the inevitable awkwardness of showing up at a party and not being sure if you’ll click with anyone. 

“You usually have those times where you go to a party, and you talk to five people, and actually it ends up being very boring,” Haond said. “I think having this as a first [step] enables you to know exactly before the party, who might be potentially the people you will get along the best with and help amplify the experience.”     

While hundreds of people streamed into Mission Control throughout the night, the affair—which eventually evolved into an actual, not virtual, raging DJed dance party—was not without its kinks. 

Kevin Fischer, the CEO and founder of Open Souls, a venture creating digital AI souls, recounted an awkward interaction between his avatar and a bot made by a venture capitalist.

Pixel-art characters gather in a virtual event space labeled "Deep Conversations Mixer" and "Tech talk." Buttons below prompt user interaction.
For the virtual event, party guests created AI avatars with cheeky pseudonyms. | Source: Christina Campodonico/The Standard

“So my bot went and pitched a VC on my company,” Fischer wrote in a DM, “and came away thinking he had made his best friend and was going to close the funding round tomorrow. The VC’s bot was kind of crazy … classic founder/VC interaction.”

“I indexed too hard on ‘chill,’” added Josh Cho, who participated in the party virtually. “My virtual version ended up telling another builder to chill out and not talk about work. That felt weird.”

The simulation crashed a few times, and some attendees struggled to find the human versions of the avatars whom the simulation recommended would make a good conversation partner. While some partygoers chose to give their avatars their real names, others chose darknet-friendly pseudonyms, like “block chen” or “DEEPFATES” or the mysterious, non-descriptive “Bench” my bot had bumped into earlier. Without photos attached to our names or bot avatars, it was nearly impossible to tell who might be who.

“Name tags or some more clues” may have helped, observed Tereza Tikova, who heads up developer relations at an AI software company and accidentally created nine different avatars that night. But the hosts decided to forego sticky name tags so commonplace at tech networking events. They wanted to give the party a more “organic” feel.

“It was actually a question we debated a lot,” said Surabhi Todi, a resident of Mission Control who helped organize the event. “We wanted the party to have a very organic, not like a networking event, feel. And ultimately, I think it was really fun to watch people go around and be like, ‘Oh my God, my bot talked to your bot!’ and, you know, create those conversations in real life​.”

Other than that, “the actual party was just a normal party,” said Tizkova, “Or as normal as it can be in San Francisco.”