WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF
It is inevitable that one day, in a couple of years, you won’t know if you are speaking to a real human or a digital human – and Samsung just upped the ante.
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I’ve been talking about the rise of digital humans for years now, in short digital avatars with increasingly sophisticated neural network brains with emotions, looks, and movements that are human-like, and who, increasingly, can read people’s emotions, and respond to questions using natural language. And over the past year companies like Soul Machines, who’ve fielded several increasingly sophisticated and life-like digital humans over the past year or so, including Will who’s taught over 250,000 children about renewable energy, have mainly had the field to themselves – even as other researchers in Japan take a different tack to creating their own version of digital humans by adapting DeepFake technology to create what’s been called “fully body” deepfakes.
This week at CES 2020 Samsung unveiled their own spin on full body Artificial Intelligence (AI) avatars, and while, as you can see from the videos below, they are incredibly life-like, when it comes to being able to interact naturally with people they’re still very slow and clunky – although with a bit more computing power that’s a problem that Samsung will quickly be able to leave behind, so you can expect these digital humans to break through the uncanny valley problem by the end of the year.
Developed by Samsung’s Technology and Advanced Research Lab (STAR Lab) in the US, these new digital humans are part of Samsung’s NEON project, and they’re some of the most human-like avatars ever created.
Browse the gallery of digital humans
Samsung dismissed rumours that Neon has anything to do with the company’s artificial assistant Bixby, stating that the project is unlike “anything you have seen before.”
One of the engineers working on the project though, Pranav Mistry, revealed ahead of the launch that the technology can “autonomously create new expressions, new movements, new dialogue (even in Hindi), completely different from the original captured data” – something that it can do likely thanks to its neural network brain which, at first glance, seems to have a lot in common with Soul Machine’s own so called Digital DNA platform, that lets you create digital humans with specific personalities and traits, and Baby X which is arguably the world’s most life-like digital toddler.
Not everyone was convinced by the realism of Samsung’s creations though with Twitter users describing them variously as “creepy and deformed“ and “weird“.
But as for the next steps, it’s unclear what Samsung’s plans for NEON are but it’s likely that they’ll be embedding them into their digital signage platforms, and if they release the technology into the wild then we could also start seeing NEON being used to replace human bloggers online with virtual bloggers, as I’ve discussed before, and increasingly compete with some of the other rivals in the space including Cubic Motion who have their own increasingly stunning digital humans.