Many crazy projects were presented at CES 2020, the technological innovation show in Las Vegas. One, in particular, caught our attention: NEON, virtual avatars in the form of “artificial humans” offered by STAR Labs, a subsidiary of Samsung. A look back at the event.
Far from STAR Labs the idea of replacing Alexa, Siri or Bixby (created by Samsung) voice assistants. NEON is not intended to be a source of information and answer all your questions. Rather, according to STAR Labs, it is “a virtual being that looks and behaves like a human, with the ability to show emotion and intelligence”. It’s designed to be a friend you can talk to, learn from and grow like a human being.
How does NEON work?
NEON is not a physical robot but a “person” generated by an algorithm that interacts behind a screen. Thanks to Core R3 technology, whose 3 Rs stand for Reality, Real-time, Responsiveness, avatars look more real than life and are very reactive: only a few microseconds of latency. According to the firm, this is a breakthrough “in the fields of behavioural neural networks, evolutionary generative intelligence, and computational reality. Another technology has been developed: “Spectra”, which allows characters to learn, evolve, create emotions and memorize. This technology is still in the development phase for the moment.
Actors have lent their voices and movements to these avatars. The AI then uses this original data to evolve and create new expressions but also new movements and dialogues. Each NEON is unique and there can be no copy. Everything is worked out in detail: skin texture, hair strands, reflections, shadows. To accentuate the real aspect of their avatars, the official site even uses a “.life” domain name. The president of Star Labs goes even further with his words straight out of a science fiction movie: “There are millions of species on our planet, and we hope to add one more”.
What will be the uses/risks?
If NEON does indeed look almost perfectly like a human being, the risks of hijacking avatars to create false information on the internet (the “deep fakes”) will be very likely. However, the Star Labs team would like to reassure the public: “At this stage or in the future, it is technically impossible to have a Neon that will look exactly like you, that will have your characteristics and your personality and your way of smiling Nobody will have access to the heart of our technology”. The data will be personal and secure and no one will have access to your interactions with NEON.
As far as uses are concerned, according to the scientists who worked on the project, these artificial humans will mainly be used in the service sector to interact with customers. They could later become TV presenters, actors, sports coaches or invite themselves into your home to become your companion or friend.
But for the time being, NEON will not be available to the general public for many years to come. No need to be afraid of being replaced as a friend by a virtual avatar so for now.
If you want to know more, here is the link to the official NEON project website: http://neon.life/
photo by neon