At the end of December, Neon was sharing on Twitter a series of images in which they asked: “Have you ever met an ARTIFICIAL?”. There were no more details, they only quoted us for CES 2020, the Las Vegas technology event that the brand would use to give more information. And so it has been. Samsung STAR Labs has presented Neon, its “artificial humans” or “virtual humans” project.
There is not much official information about it, as long as the official website of the project simply makes it clear that we are not talking about a virtual assistant such as Assistant, Alexa or Siri. They are “artificial humans,” beings created by an AI that seem human, behave like humans and have the ability to express emotions and intelligence, according to Samsung. They are not intended to replace humans, but it could be said that they seek to complement them.
A virtual friend
Samsung describes Neon as follows: “It is not an AI assistant. It is not an Internet interface. It is not a music player. It is simply a friend.” Neon speaks all languages, and according to the brand it is able to learn from us, get new skills and evolve. That is precisely why we have to understand it as a companion, not in the ‘Her’ style, but rather as a virtual friend, as a lively and intelligent chatbot.
Neon appears before us on a screen and, theoretically, it shouldn’t be easy to distinguish the avatar from a real human. However, it is not valid to get carried away by promotional images, since they are “dummy and simulated for illustrative purposes only”. Neon AI learns from us to offer us more and more personalized answers in question, according to Samsung. Interactions with humans are carried out expressing emotions, such as happiness through a smile, so it is relatively easy to imagine a kind of virtual coach that expresses hardness and even aggressiveness, for example.
This is explained by a representative of STAR Labs to the CNBC: avatars “will help improve the interactions that people have with certain tasks, such as a friendly customer service or a coach who can remember your name if you do yoga a certain amount of times during the week. ” In the future, Samsung believes that “Neons will work as television presenters, spokespersons or movie actors,” or simply “maybe partners and friends.”
Bo Moon, chief strategy officer of Neon, gives another example: “There are cashiers who are behind a window and only do bank transactions. We could use Neon to make the bank transaction and you wouldn’t even know that he is not a real person. It greets you, answers you and is even able to laugh at your jokes.”
According to Neon, avatars can borrow features of real people and have a similar appearance and voice, although they will never become completely identical. They also claim that each Neon is unique and has its own personality. In the words of Pranav Ministry, CEO of Neon and head of STAR Labs, “there are millions of species on our planet and we hope to add one more.” “Neons will be our friends, collaborators and partners, continually learning, evolving and forming memories of their interactions,” he says.
However, we cannot forget the detail that the images shown at CES 2020 and in the promotional content are merely fictitious, so we cannot really say that the Neon (as these avatars are called) are realistic, since, following To what we know, we don’t know how they are. To do this, it will be time to wait and, therefore, catch the whole speech with tweezers.
So far we have seen what Neon is on the outside, so let’s look at the two elements that give it life: Core R3 and Spectra. Core R3 is a kind of “philosophy”, behavioural guide, and means “reality, real-time and receptive.” Neon says that Core R3 is “inspired by the rhythmic complexities of nature and widely trained with the appearance, behaviour and interaction of humans,” this being a step forward in the “domains of behavioral neural networks, intelligence evolutionary generative and computational reality.”
Spectra, meanwhile, is the artificial intelligence that is in the background and in charge of intelligence, learning, emotions and memory. It is still under development and not much is known about it. So much so that Neon quotes us for an event called “Neonworld 2020” that will take place at the end of the year to learn more about it. There is no specific date for now.
Of course, this technology, seeing how deepfakes are becoming popular, poses certain challenges to take into account when it comes to privacy and trust. On the Neon website they claim “to guarantee the integrity of the data with cutting-edge protocols”, without detailing exactly which or how. In the press release, Neon states that it is “fundamentally different from deepfake techniques or other facial resuscitation techniques” while ” Core R3 does not manipulate an individual scene“, but “creates unique behaviours and unique interactions in real-time”. Create, in Neon’s words, “new realities.”
Theoretically, Neon will see the light in beta at the end of the year and will only be available to certain partners. According to sources, users can access them through a license or by subscribing to Neon “to get help from experts, asking [the avatar] for financial advice, for example.”
The speech is almost science fiction, but what we know for sure is that we really don’t know much. The chatbots humanlike are not new, nor are human beings created by artificial intelligence. Since we do not know what a Neon really is and whether it is distinguishable or not from a real human being (which is shown on a screen should already give clues), there is no doubt if STAR Labs has managed to create something really new and convincing or not. We wait until “Neonworld 2020” to see it.