08-01-2020 4:56 am Published by Nederland.ai Leave your thoughts

Neon's super-realistic digital people are real. Well, something like that.

The mysterious company, which comes from the Samsung Technology and Advanced Research Labs (aka STAR Labs), debuted at CES 2020 here in Las Vegas at the end of Monday. It described its technology, also called Neon, as “a computationally created virtual being that looks and behaves like a real person, with the ability to show emotions and intelligence.”

In principle, Neon creates video chat bots that look and act like real people. Neons are not all-knowing smart assistants, androids, surrogates or copies of real people, the company said in an FAQ shared with reporters. They can't tell you the weather or how old Abraham Lincoln was when he died.

“Neons are not AI assistants,” the company said. “Neons are more like us, an independent but virtual living creature who can show emotions and learn from experiences. Unlike AI assistants, Neons don't know everything, and they are not an interface to the internet to ask for weather reports or to play your favorite music “.

Instead, they are designed for conversations and to behave like real people. They form memories and learn new skills, but have no physical embodiment, at least not now. Neons can help with “targeted tasks or can be personalized to help with tasks that require human touch”. They can act as teachers, financial advisors, caregivers, caretakers, actors, spokespersons or TV anchors.

While they can borrow properties from real people and have a similar look and voice, they cannot be exact copies of existing people, Neon said. And every Neon is unique, with its own personality.

“There are millions of species on our planet, and we hope to add one more,” said Pranav Mistry, Neon CEO and head of STAR Labs, in a press release. “Neons will be our friends, associates, and companions, who are constantly learning, evolving, and remembering their interactions.”

Before CES 2020 even started, Neon had already generated the biggest buzz for the world's biggest tech show. That was despite – or perhaps because of – the fact that nobody really knew what it was. Neon tweets from various teasing spirits after launching its social media accounts in mid-December, hinting at something it called “an” Artificial. “The only concrete fact that was known about Neon was that it was run by Mistry, the old Samsung research manager who was named CEO of STAR Labs in October.

While for some people, Neon's realistic digital people could become companions, they also question whether they cannot be too realistic. Neon 's technology seems to be flirting with the “uncanny valley”, the sensation of disgust that some people experience when they come across something that is very similar to, but not exactly, a person.

An example of something that the creepy valley could not bridge was the 2004 Polar movie. The children's film contained an all-encompassing cast of characters that looked somewhat lifelike – but not lifelike enough that they would be confused for real people. Instead, that realism backfired and causes some viewers to feel uncomfortable.

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