In a bid to “make science fiction a reality”, Samsung’s future factory STAR Labs has developed Neon, AI-powered virtual beings that look and behave like real humans. The announcement at the opening of the 2020 Consumer Electronics Show on Thursday in Las Vegas touted a new kind of artificial intelligence called NEON, produced by the independent Samsung unit Star Labs.
What’s a Neon?
A Neon is an artificially intelligent digital avatar that’s meant to mimic real human appearance and emotions. It’s envisioned as a highly lifelike companion that has its own personality and can converse and behave like humans. Neon can also remember and learn.
According to Neon CEO Pranav Mistry, “Neons are more like us, an independent but virtual living being, who can show emotions and learn from experiences.” According to the founder’s vision, they’re like a related yet different new species of life from humans.
In fairness to STAR Labs, the company does seem to be trying something new with its avatars. But exactly what it’s doing we can’t tell, as its first official press release today fails to explain the company’s underlying tech and instead relies solely on jargon and hype.
“Neon is like a new kind of life,” says STAR Labs CEO Pranav Mistry in the release. “There are millions of species on our planet and we hope to add one more.”
Each Neon avatar is “computationally generated” and will hold conversations with users while displaying “emotions and intelligence,” says the company. Their likenesses are modeled after real humans, but have newly generated “expressions, dialogs, and emotion.” Each avatar can be customized for different tasks, and is able to respond to queries “with latency of less than a few milliseconds.” They’re not intended to be just visual skins for AI assistants, but put to more varying uses instead:
“In the near future, one will be able to license or subscribe to a NEON as a service representative, a financial advisor, a healthcare provider, or a concierge. Over time, NEONs will work as TV anchors, spokespeople, or movie actors; or they can simply be companions and friends.”
What does a Neon do?
Right now, not much. Neon is in its early start-up phase, generating buzz and interest, as well as possible use cases when the technology matures. At CES, Neons acted mostly in a chat bot capacity, as an AI engine with a face that you can speak to but about far more than the weather or how long it will take to drive to the mall.
The end goal of this technology is to be able to connect the brain to an external device to form a brain-machine interface, eventually lead to a future of “superhuman intelligence”
Unlisted videos taken from the source code on Neon’s homepage revealed even more of these same human figures. The videos were originally posted on Reddit, but have now been taken down. You can see them in the YouTube video below, though, and they do look extremely lifelike. In fact, they look just like videos — not computer-generated graphics.