Britney Spears’ The Woman in Me was the best autobiography of 2023, according to book recommendation site GoodReads. Prince Harry’s Spare was No. 2.

And while we all have stories to tell, few of us have the resources of a pop star or a member of the royal family, which include both the time to write a memoir and the funds to hire a collaborator to help us draw out our memories and connect the dots.

That’s where a year-old AI startup called Autobiographer comes in. It’s developed an AI interviewer, which asks questions to help you record your life story over time.   

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It’s AI content generation with a twist: Most of the generative AI tools on the market today, including ChatGPT, Claude, Copilot and Gemini, generate text and other content types based on the prompts we provide — from “Help me perfect my resume to land the job of my dreams” to “Please write a song about Detroit in the style of a popular Motown artist” — Autobiographer provides prompts, which guide you to generate your own outputs. 

It’s one of the few gen AI products, if not the only one, where the “AI asks you questions as opposed to you asking it questions,” CEO Matt Bowman said.

After downloading the iOS app from Apple’s App Store and signing up for a $199 annual subscription, you see on your iPhone what appears to be a rock floating between pink clouds.

“Searching for your next memory,” the app says. And then, “Memory ready to be explored.”

When I clicked on “Start Conversation,” the AI interviewer asked me to tell a story about an adventure I’ve had. 

“There is no right answer, just go with your gut and tell a cool story from your memories,” the AI interviewer added. “What’s the adventure that comes to mind and what made it special?”

No single adventure immediately stuck out for me, but I have lived in eight US states and England, so I audibly told the AI interviewer you could argue that my entire life has been a series of adventures — some good, some bad. But one of the good ones was taking a leap in my early 20s and moving to New York to start a career.

“What inspired you to make that bold move at such a young age?” the AI interviewer asked next. “Paint a picture of what those early days in the city were like for you.”

Since this was just an experiment, I ended the interview there. The app gave me conversation notes, with highlights of “our” discussion and the option to confirm the accuracy of the summary or to edit it.

“Autobiographer helps you discover, preserve and tell your story to those you love,” said Bowman. “By having an adaptive AI conversation with a really curious and very specifically trained AI biographer, you can rediscover your own story.”

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Your conversations with the AI interviewer are stored in what Autobiographer calls the Memory Vault, which Bowman described as “a deeply encrypted biometric and protected private space where you can see the storyboard of all your memories and your life’s journey come together.”

The iOS app debuted in May. It has “a small but growing user base,” CTO James Barnes said. He didn’t disclose figures.

The Bay Area-based startup is developing apps for “platforms beyond iOS” but has no release dates, a spokesperson added.

Autobiographer uses Anthropic’s Claude 3 model, which Bowman said is because “of its emotional connectivity and its ability to ask great questions and understand you.”

Authors and biographers have helped Autobiographer fine-tune its AI interviewer’s personality.

“We’ve just tuned [Claude 3] into a biographer that’s curious about mostly pulling unique stories out of your life, asking how the background of your life equates to a great story, what the hero’s journey or the arc or narrative with that is, and being curious to pull the elements out,” Bowman said. “Not only from a timeline perspective and getting all the biographical facts correct, but also asking about what it felt like internally, what the significance of what it meant to you is.”

Each subscription comes with unlimited conversations, lifetime storage and the ability to create up to 250 pages of content per year. That includes gratitude letters for loved ones and other content types.

The startup envisions users making progress on full-length autobiographies — another content type offered — by having 20-minute conversations with the AI interviewer each week.

Autobiographer is continuing to develop its AI interviewer, including the types of questions it asks, how it follows up and how it memorializes these things, Barnes said.

“The value of a good question, or many good questions, allowing you to paint that picture with your words, is really profound,” Barnes added. “And it’s something I think we don’t often get the opportunity to do, because we don’t have an endlessly patient, attentive, curious listener.”

This is one of a series of short profiles of AI startups, to help you get a handle on the landscape of artificial intelligence activity going on. For more on AI, see our new AI Atlas hub, which includes product reviews, news, tips and explainers.

Editors’ note: CNET used an AI engine to help create several dozen stories, which are labeled accordingly. The note you’re reading is attached to articles that deal substantively with the topic of AI but are created entirely by our expert editors and writers. For more, see our AI policy.

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