The super-realistic digital people from the Neon project are real. Well, sort of. And yes, do not ask them for a weather forecast …
The mysterious company, which grew out of Samsung Technology and Advanced Research Labs (STAR Labs), showed itself at the exhibition CES 2020 in Las Vegas from January 7 to 10. They presented Neon technology – “a virtual creature that looks and behaves like a person, shows emotions and intelligence.” In fact, Neon creates video chat bots (hereinafter referred to as neons) that look like real people; these are not all-knowing assistants, androids, substitutes or copies of people. They will not tell you about the weather or when Abraham Lincoln died. “Neons are not AI assistants, they are more like us. These are independent, albeit virtual, creatures that learn from their own experience. They don’t know everything in the world and they aren’t the interface for accessing the Internet to clarify the weather outside or turn on your favorite music, ”the company says.
On the contrary, these chatbots are designed for communication and human-like behavior. They keep memories and learn skills, but do not have physical embodiment (at least for now). Neons can help with targets or be adapted for classes in which “humanity” is needed – to be teachers, financial advisors, medical staff, concierges, actors, press secretaries and TV presenters. Each neon is unique, with its own personality; and although these creatures can borrow the features of a real person and have similar appearance and voice, still they can not be exact copies of existing people.
“There are millions of individuals on the planet, we hope to add one more,” Pranav Mistry, Neon CEO and Star LABS CEO said in a press release. “Neons will be our friends, associates and companions who are constantly learning, developing and forming memory based on their interactions with the world.”
Neon had time rustle even before the CES 2020 conference, because no one really understood what was coming. Since mid-December, the company has posted several teasers on Twitter, using the term Artificial; the only thing that was known for sure was the name of Pranav Mistry, a longtime Samsung researcher who has become CEO of STAR Labs since October.
While realistic digital people can become companions for someone, the question arises whether they will too realistic? The presented technology seems to flirt with “sinister valley“- an effect in which people feel dislike and / or disgust when they encounter an object that is very similar to a person, but not a person. For example, the 2004 film “polar Express“Did not overcome the ominous valley: the animated characters looked realistic, but not enough to be confused with living people. This realism played a cruel joke on the film, as it made some viewers feel uncomfortable.
January 5, Mistry tweeted two photographs of “artificial people”, which he called CORE A3. Then the disparate Reddit videos were put together and uploaded to YouTube: