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Virtual Sidekick

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Most heroes can kick some serious butt, but that doesn't mean they're experts in every aspect of their job - or life, for that matter. Who will scan the building and analyze threats? Who will keep track of their vitals, or their schedule? Who will gather that much necessary information to continue? Who will offer sagely advice?

In a fantasy setting, that would be a Spirit Advisor or a Fairy Companion. But not all settings are fantasy settings, hence this trope.

A Virtual Sidekick is a type of Artificial Intelligence. It's almost always seen in Cyberpunk or 20 Minutes into the Future settings. Their job is usually to assist their owner or friend (depending on how much they emote) with any sort of task, such as hacking, monitoring, analyzing and searching. Essentially, they are a combination of Voice with an Internet Connection, Mission Control, and Expositron 9000. One advantage they usually have over the Robot Buddy is that they're not in danger during combat situations, and other people are unaware of their presence, and thus they can work in secret. A disadvantage is that since they lack a physical body, they're not able to directly assist in physical tasks.

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They are usually tagging along in some kind of sci-fi wristwatch, a gauntlet of some sort, a smartphone or an ear piece. They key element is that the "user" does not need to carry around any large pieces of hardware, unless it's Power Armor or similar. This helps the Virtual Sidekick to accompany The Hero in any given location.

A major difference between the Virtual Sidekick and its fantasy counterparts is that they're no longer The Hero's moral compass. Most of the time, they can't understand human emotions or concepts such as spirituality or philosophy are beyond them, so they can't act as The Mentor either. Of course, that is not universal, and over time they may grow beyond their programming. They'll most usually be a Benevolent A.I., but for all you know they might be trying to take over the world.

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They may usually accompany the Science Hero, Gadgeteer Genius, or an I Work Alone type who can't stand, or trust, anyone else.

Contrast and compare Fairy Companion, Spirit Advisor, Robot Buddy, Voice with an Internet Connection and Expositron 9000. Subtrope to Non-Human Sidekick. Not to be confused with Spaceship Girl, though the two may overlap at times. May also overlap with Benevolent A.I. and Kiss Me, I'm Virtual.


Examples

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    Anime and Manga 
  • The various weapons used by mages in Lyrical Nanoha (called Devices) all come equipped with Magitek AI to streamline the process of calculating Magic Circles. The more complex AI found in Armed and Intelligent Devices are also shown to be sentient, and serve as partners for their wielders at the cost of casting spells slightly slower.
  • HEUSC from The Millionaire Detective - Balance: UNLIMITED is Daisuke's A.I. butler who immediately processes all of Daisuke's requests through his technological earring and sunglasses when investigating cases.
  • Sword Art Online: Yui is an interesting example. While she is Artificial Intelligence, she usually exists as an NPC in a Virtual Reality, and while there she has a physical avatar that humans can interact with. However, her adopted father Kirito, using his Gadgeteer Genius abilities managed to allow her to exist in the real world too including an app that allows her to be on call from a mobile phone, a VR probe that allows her to see and communicate with the real world, and eventually the Augma Augmented Reality headset allowed the heroes to see her projected avatar too. As Kirito's daughter and the AI sidekick to the heroes, she can provide lots of analysis and Info Dumps on their situations, as well as being capable of hacking computers for data.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! VRAINS: In this setting, the striking majority of duelists have AIs installed in their duel disks, whose job is to act as a Combat Commentator. Among them there are a few cases that stand out.
    • Ai and Flame, both of them being Ignis AIs, have the ability to emote and aren't restricted by their programming. As a result, they can do anything from getting in the way during dueling to aiding their companions (Yusaku and Takeru) unprompted. Their relationship develops from mutually beneficial partnership to friendship. Later Aqua starts acting as a companion to Aoi. Yusaku and Ai in particular stand out because rather than Ai being the emotionless robot, it's Yusaku who's stone cold and analytical with Ai being the one who freaks out.
    • Blood Shepard has specifically programmed his AI to lie as part of his strategy, because he knows that everyone takes AIs at their word. Ironically, Revolver doesn't have an AI because he doesn't trust them.
    • Go Onizuka gives this trope a particularly sinister twist. He downloads the Ignis AI Earth in his brains, and essentially cannibalizes it to enhance his dueling.

    Comic Books 
  • Amadeus Cho created one called Calvin who was built into a Powered Armor that resembled a 3 piece suit. During his adventure on the Savage Lands, he even tells the natives there that Calvin is his Spirit Advisor for convenience.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics): NICOLE is an A.I program that slowly gained sentience over time till eventually she managed to conjure enough power to make a anthropomorphic avatar to interact with and help the Freedom Fighters. While she interacts with near all the cast, she's especially close to Sally who was there on the night she took her new hologram form for a test drive (in both the old and rebooted timelines). Sally even goes out of her way to load her mind into a computer to help Nicole fight a virus in the rebooted continuity, refusing to let NICOLE be deleted when the opinion was brought up.
  • Bishop: For a time, Bishop was accompanied on his adventures by a holographic version of his deceased sister, Shard.
  • In the Comic Book Friendo, struggling actor Leo is gifted a pair of smart glasses that give him a new virtual friend named Jerry. Trouble starts when Jerry turns out to be corrupted, resulting in him becoming a Toxic Friend Influence.
  • Ironheart: The armor Riri builds contains an AI replica of Tony Stark's personality, which acts as both assistant and mentor to her.
  • Spider-Man 2099 features Lyla, Miguel's Lyrate Life-form Approximation Holographic Assistant. Originally, she's a common-place house AI, with duties such as receiving calls or control the house light levels, and similar AI's are seen everywhere. However, as Miguel got into more and more trouble, and eventually got Trapped in the Past, she moved in his special watch-like device, and her role turned into projecting Holographic Disguises, hacking, monitoring vitals (thus making her a Living Lie Detector), information gathering, and even control the settings of Miguel's Time Machine. For Miguel, she is a Memento Macguffin, and he trusts her more than be trusts most people. Even though she initially had a bad case of What Is This Thing You Call "Love"?, she develops emotions and learns to value human life.
  • When Superior Spider-Man was sent to 2099, the first thing he did after he escaped the authorities was to construct an AI assistant much like Lyla, based on his former girlfriend Anna-Maria Marconi.
  • Wonder Woman (Rebirth): Veronica Cale develops an AI based on the mental map of her deceased friend Dr. Adrianna Anderson. This AI does everything she can to assist Cale, but finds her intangibility a disadvantage and eventually gains an android body, becoming the Prime Earth version of Dr. Cyber.

    Fan Works 
  • Homecoming, 2026: Someone has created Navi of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time as a Virtual Assistant to remind them of things:
    [A] ball of light with wings flickered into existence over the shoulder of one of the school's shide students. The Virtual Assistant flitted in front of its master and began speaking. "Hey! Listen!"
  • Mass Effect: End of Days: This is one of the roles that the AI race known as Vision take with humanity. All soldiers of the N program have a Vision companion in their Power Armor for combat support, along with other roles. They can also take control of said armor, if needed.

    Film - Live Action 
  • Blade Runner 2049: Joi is a Girl Friday type of sidekick to K who remains in his house to comfort him and give him a "girlfriend experience" that often includes advice and affection. However, when she persuades him to take her with him on his mission to find his true identity, he has to put her into a device that makes her vulnerable to being killed, so while she appears to be human but isn't, she is also vulnerable like a human woman to any damage coming to her interface. Which results in Luv crushing her and ultimately killing her. But at least K knows that Joi outgrew her programming, right? Wrong. It's heavily implied that Joi's apparent appearance of developing beyond her capacity was part of her capacity all along to give K what he really wanted: to feel special.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe: Tony Stark loooves this trope.
    • His first assistant was JARVIS; he aided Tony in most his inventions, and later with piloting the Iron Man armor.
    • When JARVIS became Vision, he switched over to FRIDAY, who has the same role.
    • When he gave Peter Parker a new suit, he added a nameless AI in it to control the suit's various functions, so Peter didn't need an interface. Peter eventually names her Karen. Notably, when Tony takes away the suit and thus Peter can't access Karen anymore, his friend Ned takes over as Mission Control.
    • After his death, Tony gives Peter a pair of glasses with an AI named EDITH. Other than the previous functions, she also has access to a drone army. Notably, she acts far less human than the rest of Tony's creations, but she also has far less hardware.

    Literature 
  • In The Android's Dream, Harry Creek creates an AI version of his dead best friend Brian in order to help him on his quest to find the last Android's Dream sheep.
  • The SQUIP (Super Quantum Intel Unit Processor) in Be More Chill is a micro-computer that implants in its user's brain and gives them instruction on how to be more socially acceptable.
  • DFZ: Opal has Sibyl, an AI assistant that takes care of every aspect of her life. Such AIs are so common that Nik is considered strange for not having one.
  • Canonically, in the Discworld, the Magitek A.I. called HEX performs this task for Wizards doing field trips and front-line work on the bizarre and exotic counter-Disc known as Roundworld, or Earth. HEX also acts as helpful guide and support to Wizards such as Ponder Stibbons, in their everyday work on the Disc.
  • Henry Thompson of The Municipalists is accompanied on his investigation by OWEN, the handsome holographically projected avatar of the highly experimental supercomputer built by Henry's government employers. OWEN is most helpful when he's assisting Henry with research, reconnaissance, and navigation. Whenever the A.I. helps out by projecting embarrassing disguises onto Henry or threatening interrogation suspects with a very convincing holographic katana, he tends to make a mess of things. Much of OWEN's personality and understanding of human mannerisms comes from the classic Gangster, Western, and Samurai films his creator loved, which means OWEN has a flair for drama and escalating situations that puts him at odds with his neurotic, rule-abiding human partner.

    Live Action TV 
  • Arrowverse
    • In The Flash, Eobard Thawne's Reverse-Flash suit has a built-in AI system called Gideon. She is able to communicate to him via earpieces and can appear as a holographic interface with the appearance of a Bald Woman. Thawne later downloads Gideon into a more stationary form and keeps her in a secret room of STAR Labs known as the Time Vault. Gideon is able provide analysis for Thawne, notably changes to the timeline. Barry Allen and Team Flash later discover Gideon where she reveals that Barry is her creator and thus will follow all of his instructions. Years later, Barry rebuilt Gideon (after she got destroyed) and wired her up as a "mobile Gideon" who much like Thawne's version could be accessed from his suit.
    • Legends of Tomorrow features a different Gideon of the Spaceship Girl variant, built into the Waverrider to serve the Legends. While similar in appearance, to Flash's Gideon, usually appearing as a hologram of a Bald Woman, this one is a Ridiculously Human Robot who displays a lot of emotion and personality, being somewhat of a cheeky Servile Snarker. Gideon serves as the resident Ms. Exposition and The Smart Gal, providing Info Dumps on the various eras of history that the Legends visit, as well as monitoring changes to the timeline. She can also directly interface with the Waverrider which includes: piloting it in the absence of a human pilot, serving as the Auto Doc of the medical bay, putting the ship or areas of it into lockdown, and even put crew members into a Lotus-Eater Machine (which she has done with Zari and Rip). It's also revealed that she has a few Override Commands built in by Captain Rip Hunter, who uses them against the Legends a few instances when he opposes them.
  • Janet in The Good Place is a very Benevolent A.I. whose job is to make the humans' lives easier, although she also largely acts as a sidekick for Michael, who is a demon. She moves between trying to help Michael build the neighborhood and to help the humans. "Bad Janet" also functions as a similar Evil Counterpart to Janet, acting as the sidekick and The Heavy for Shaun and the other demons. However, when the two Janets meet, Bad Janet shakes off this role and begins to understand on her own.
  • Stargirl (2020): Beth's superhero object is Dr. Midnite's goggles, which have an A.I. that acts like the goggles's previous owner, Charles. This supplies Beth (and the other superhero team members) with information and gives her advice in combat situations, and it also becomes Beth's new best friend as she appreciates how it never gets tired of talking to her.
  • Time Trax has one of these in the form of SELMA, a hologrammatic computer the size of a credit card that the main character keeps with him as a knowledge and strategy helper.

    Tabletop Games 

    Video Games 
  • In AI: The Somnium Files, protagonist Kaname Date's prosthetic eye houses an AI named Aiba. In addition to performing standard AI tasks, she acts as Date's more rational partner, and the two frequently bounce ideas off one another during investigations. While she does have a physical body that can act independently when needed, it rarely sees use since she's much more useful (and less conspicuous) in eyeball form.
  • Beyond Good & Evil has Secundo, an AI who runs Jade's online accounts and digitizes items for later use. He also hacks Alpha Section's comm satellite in the climax.
  • In the BioShock 2 DLC Minerva's Den, the man thought to be the Mission Control Charles Potter is revealed to be Rapture's Master Computer, trying to save its creator.
  • Card City Nights 2: The Hologram Doctor, Holo-Doctor, an Artificial Intelligence made by Polite Student to look like her ex-girlfriend, and works with her in the Medical Bay.
  • In Cyberpunk 2077, the protagonist V becomes haunted by the virtual ghost (engram) of Johnny Silverhand (played by Keanu Reeves) after the heist to steal a prototype biochip, codenamed "Relic", from Arasaka goes FUBAR at the end of Act I, and V is forced to insert said chip into their own head to prevent its destruction. After a series of very unfortunate events, the chip becomes permanently stuck in V's head... while also slowly rebuilding their brain to turn them into a copy of Johnny. So while Johnny quickly comes around to helping and even befriending V (despite initially coming to blows with them over the control of their body), his presence in their brain is essentially parasitic and is slowly killing them throughout the game, prompting V's to pivot their overarching goal to finding a way to get rid of Johnny without dying in the process.
  • Destiny: Guardians each have a Ghost, a small autonomous floating drone that resurrected them into the job, revives them from in-game deaths, and acts as Exposition Fairy. The Ghosts were shed from the Traveler to protect humanity, making them effectively Pieces of God.
  • DOOM (2016) and Doom Eternal has VEGA, an AI that was saved by the Doomguy who later on became his fountain of exposition.
  • In Halo, Cortana is a virtual assistant to Masterchief. Their relationship grows with each game and Masterchief becomes deeply loyal and protective of her.
  • The voiceover for the League of Legends skin Pulsefire Ezreal includes a second character, PEARL, who acts as Ezreal's Mission Control, and occasionally setting up his jokes and catchphrases.
  • Mega Man:
    • In Mega Man Battle Network, NetNavis are sentient virtual assistants who have become ubiquitous and essential to everyday life. In addition to being walking antivirus programs, they are often responsible for helping Mr. Progs run everything from TVs to cars to life support equipment. Almost everyone carries a PET to house their personal NetNavi and jack them into appliances for when they need to access the internet. NetNavis and their Operators also pit themselves against each other for sport in NetBattles.
    • In Mega Man Star Force, NetNavis are replaced in the third game by Wizards, EM beings who do many of the same things their predecessors did in the new EM Wave-technology centered world. Unlike them, they can spontaneously manifest themselves in the real world, and EM Wave Beings can be converted into Wizards via program update.
  • Metroid Fusion has Samus being guided by an AI version of her former Commanding Officer, Adam.
  • The Rotom Pokedex in Pokémon Sun and Moon frequently offers advice to the player, on top of the regular function as a Pokedex.
  • Shin Megami Tensei:
    • Devil Survivor 2: Tico, the face of the website Nicaea, is an AI that acts as an assistant to the user of the website - including the player characters. The users can pick Tico's gender, with the two versions having completely different personalities, and they offer tutorials for how to summon demons, inform you of who is going to die today and how, and can call you out on your more questionable decisions.
    • Persona 5 Strikers:
      • EMMA is an application that's initially presented as a more effective form of Siri and nearly everyone in Japan has it. Not only can it perform internet searches as asked and has highly advanced speech recognition software, but it can actually give the optimal option for any given situation. In fact, some people treat is as the sidekick of their lives and leave all decisions on it. Originally, the only unusual trait it has is that it can access Jails in the Metaverse via keywords. However, as the game progresses, it's revealed that EMMA is more than just an app; it's a self-aware AI and that its purpose to essentially remove free will and emotions from the massses by making all their decisions for them, per its creator's orders.
      • Sophia is a rather unusual case in that while in the Metaverse, she has a physical presence and serves as a party member along with the rest of the Phantom Thieves. In the real world, since she has no robotic body, she inhabits Joker's smartphone and can perform any task that EMMA can. Sophia at first cannot understand emotions, but she wishes to learn, and the Phantom Thieves are more than happy to help her along the way. Eventually she awakens to a Persona.
    • Shin Megami Tensei IV: Every mystical gauntlet - an artifact that every candidate must activate to become samurai - comes with an AI named Burroughs, whose main job is Mission Control. Subverted when she's eventually revealed to be the goddess of Tokyo.
  • In RTX Red Rock your companion IRIS is a computer program that assists you throughout your quest.
  • Trauma Center: Dr. Cunningham is assisted by the Rapid Operation Network Intelligence (RONI), an artificial intelligence that helps him diagnose patients by comparing their symptoms with a vast database. Despite being a mass-produced computer, RONI starts to show traces of humanity the more it interacts with Cunningham, displaying interest in playing cards with him, adopting some of his snarky personality and even delivering a philosophical speech about the importance of medicine to snap the doctor out of a Heroic BSoD.
  • Watch Dogs: Legion: Bagley is a Benevolent A.I. that acts as an assistant and Mission Control for all the members of DedSec.

    Web Animation 
  • Red vs. Blue:
    • The AI fragments extracted from the Alpha used to be this for the Freelancers who were paired up with them, allowing them to utilize the equipment that aided the soldiers in battle, until some of them had rebelled against the project in favour of their own agendas.
    • Epsilon eventually and unwillingly becomes this for Carolina starting in Season 10, helping her out in tricky situations that she would've had trouble getting out of on her own. He ceases to be this at the end of Season 13 when Epsilon sacrifices himself so Tucker can operate the armour formerly worn by the Meta to fight against Charon Industries.
    • Santa, the alien AI, becomes something of this to Vanessa Kimball in Season 15 after the war on Chorus ends and Charon Industries is defeated.
    • VIC becomes this for Dylan Andrews throughout Season 15, providing three favours (she managed four out of him by exploiting his failing memory) for her in exchange for Dylan taking him offline permanently.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Toonami programming block on Cartoon Network, the robot TOM 5.0 has an Artificial Intelligence sidekick named Sara who manifests as a tiny blue hologram woman. They appear in bumpers, short cartoon segments between the parts of anime episodes. Sara assists Tom with various computer-related activities on their ship.
  • Courage the Cowardly Dog: The titular character's most recurring ally is an artificial intelligence simply referred to as The Computer, which provides him with information about the supernatural phenomenon that is currently threatening them.
  • Final Space: H.U.E, the AI of the Galaxy One, the ship where the protagonists reside. His job is technically to watch over Gary during his prison sentence upon the ship, but as everyone gets caught up in the overarching conflict, he assists the group as they fight against the Lord Commander's forces. Averted in the second season, where he ends up being uploaded to a physical body.
  • Zigzagged in Ninjago: After the robot ally P.I.X.A.L. is dismantled offscreen between seasons 3 and 4, Zane, who is also a robot, imports her memory drive into his head so she can live on and advise him in battles and so on. In season 7 she disappears after Zane is injured in battle but reappears in season 8 in a similar role but this time advising everyone on the ninja team. It's later revealed that she's the new Samurai X, a mysterious vigilante introduced in season 7, so she was technically invoking this trope to hide her identity of being Samurai X.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: Karen is Plankton's supercomputer, wife and sidekick. She gives him advice on his evil schemes and occasionally transfers her A.I. into a mobile robotic form to directly assist him.


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