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Are "artificial humans" the future of voice assistants?


Unveiled last week at CES 2020, are Neon's avatars really "artificial humans"?

Samsung CEO Pranav Mistry presents Neon's virtual humans at CES in Las Vegas on January 7, 2020. - Yonhap News / Newscom / SIPA

  • Samsung took advantage of CES in Las Vegas to present its Neon project
  • Pranav Mistry, project manager says that these avatars are different from voice assistants like Siri or Alexa.
  • Could these last have this form in the future?

Friends, collaborators or partners; this is the promise made by Samsung with its avatars of the Samsung Neon project. The company aroused curiosity around these “Artificials” during its presentation at CES 2020 last week. These "artificial humans" will be much more than just voice assistants, according to Neon CEO Prana Mistry. Designed to behave like us, show emotions and create memories, they will not only give information such as the weather or play music, like the Google Assistant for example. They will thus have several functions: teacher, financial advisor, healthcare provider, concierge, actor, spokesperson or even TV presenter, says Samsung. Finally, they will have a real personality.

An image tweeted by Pranav Mistry, head of the Neon project, from Samsung. - CAPTURE TWITTER

But are these "artificial humans" the reality of tomorrow or rather a publicity stunt on the part of the company? It is currently not possible to know what they will look like and what they are really capable of. Samsung has indeed recognized that the scenarios presented on its stand at CES as well as its promotional content were fictitious and only simulated for illustration purposes, as revealed by The Verge . The Neon project is still in development, but Pranav Mistry says its avatars may later exist as holograms. Could they be the future of virtual assistants?

Between science fiction and reality

Samsung calls these avatars artificial humans, but for some, we are far from artificial intelligence. "I think it's a great marketing service, that is to say that they are absolutely not humans, they are hyper realistic avatars. We have already done the same thing in films with computer generated images ”, affirms Isabelle Collet, computer scientist and teacher-researcher at the University of Geneva. We've seen this in the cinema for years. This is particularly the case for animation films like The Incredibles , but also for science fiction films such as Avatar . "When they talk about artificial humans, they think of the talking, moving, animated avatar, a bit like a human," explains Serena Ivaldi, robotics researcher at INRIA (National Institute for Research in Computer Science) and automatically).

This story of artificial humans is more science fiction than reality at the moment. Pranav Mistry talks about a new form of life, but it is rather the very realistic aspect of these Neons which surprises and nothing proves that they will be really so different from the current voice assistants. For Isabelle Collet, these are "beautiful models with an artificial intelligence engine that is no smarter than Siri".

Human-Neon Relations

Neons should each have their own personality. But is it possible? According to Serena Ivaldi, it all depends on the software behind it. "Like any behavior and decision software, we can always configure behaviors and optimize parameters in relation to the person's return," she explains. These avatars are based on two technologies. The first, called Core R3, allows them to react quickly and realistically while the second, called Spectra, deals with intelligence, learning, emotions and memory.

These avatars were designed to be friends, collaborators or partners. In this sense, it is possible that people get attached to it. Several films show this kind of relationship. In Her for example, the character of Joaquin Phoenix falls in love with Samantha, an artificial intelligence. "Elderly people with Alzheimer's or dementia have attached themselves to an object in the form of a small animal, so it is possible that people will feel less alone with the Neons" recognizes Isabelle Collet.

Find the section Future (s) here

Finally, if Samsung has shown diversity with these models presented at CES, they do not represent the diversity of non-artificial humanity. "They are all beautiful and thin," notes Isabelle Collet. Obviously, we are not yet ready to have interlocutors who are not beautiful and thin ”. On the other hand, the teacher-researcher considers that it is probable that transgender or other gender avatars are developed, given that several individuals in society claim to be gender fluid, non-binary, etc. Neon has confirmed that the appearance of his avatars is based on real people. For the moment, the Neon project is still in development. According to Pranav Mistry, a beta version will be released later this year. We will then see whether it is time to replace our friends with holograms.


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  • Future (s)
  • CES 2020
  • Artificial intelligence
  • Culture
  • Samsung

Source: 20minf

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