Samsung’s ‘Artificial Humans’ Announced
The annual CES event never disappoints and just like they always do, CES 2020 was full of exciting things to behold! While other companies were fixated on the future of artificial intelligence, Samsung went ahead and brought futuristic AI and revealed Neon. Neon is an AI chatbot that was made from the company’s Star Labs advanced research division. However, we’ve known chatbots for over 10 years now, so what made Neon particularly interesting?
What Neon is NOT!
Explaining new technology requires a little bit of sensitivity because of its unprecedented nature. Neon is not meant to be a replacement or improvement of the current generation of digital assistants – such as Siri, Amazon’s Alexa or the Google Assistant. It is not meant to just fetch answers to simple questions about the weather, news or sports scores. Neon is also not meant to control your smart home devices, set reminders, alarms or play your favorite music.
According to the company, Neons are also not Androids, surrogates or copies of real humans even though they showcase similar physical and behavioral attributes to actual living humans. Nor are they meant to inhabit robots. So what are they, really?
What Neons Are (Or What They Could Be)
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.” Leaving a lot of people confused, he explained that Neons are meant to talk and behave like humans, as well as remember and learn from past conversations. They’re like a related, yet different, new species of life from humans.
According to the company, Neons are meant to act as friends, collaborators and companions. “They can serve as an individualized teacher, a personal financial advisor, a healthcare provider, a concierge, an actor, a spokesperson or a TV anchor.”
What Are Neons Capable Of?
Even though most of us are not sure how practical Neons are to our daily lives, Mistry assured that the concept could be a breakthrough for AI. It could be used in a variety of specialized applications tailored to meet individual needs. For example, if you wanted to learn Yoga in the comfort of your home, one could potentially learn from a Neon yoga expert that could show one various poses. Just like a human teacher, it could increase the level of difficulty as one gets better with time.
If one also wanted to learn a new language, a Neon could teach you, translate for you in real-time and help you when you need assistance. Neons are perceived to act as friends or a confidant. All language processing is said to be on-device, therefore, Neons could keep all your secrets, even better than a human does.
Neons are Samsung’s Baby Project
Neon is the brainchild of Samsung researcher, Pranav Mistry, which emerged out of Star Labs (Samsung Technology and Advanced Research Labs) but only funded by Samsung. For clarification, Mistry assured that Neon is not meant to replace Samsung’s digital assistant, Bixby. He made it clear that it won’t be installed in Samsung products and that it is not actually a Samsung company.
How Will Neons Exist?
Mistry clarified that Neon doesn’t intend to turn the avatars into physical robots. However, he foresees that they will eventually exist as holographs. However, for now, we should expect to interact with Neons using the same technology one uses to connect with friends and family. This is typically on a smartphone, tablet, PC, smart TV or using apps such as Skype and FaceTime.
With time, neons will appear lifelike and life-sized on a scale similar to the people one video-chats with. The first phase will be based on real human likenesses, but Mistry said future Neons will be modeled to resemble real people. Neons will definitely look like humans but not actually like living people.
Can You Build Your Own Bot?
Unlike games such as The Sims or Apple’s Memoji feature, one won’t be able to choose how the Neon looks. Instead, they will just arrive on screens fully developed for us. This initiative was made to drive interactions with Neons and less on superficial aspects like appearance.
Mistry gave the analogy that when one meets a friend, it is upon you to build that friendship and not build that friend. Even for businesses, those that hire Neons can’t decide what they look like.
The Three R’s
The Neo artificial humans are powered by two pieces of Neon proprietary technology. The first, called Core R3, stands for “reality, real-time and responsive.” They are responsible for making Neons respond quicker and in a lifelike manner. The second one is Spectra, which is responsible for intelligence, learning, emotions and memory.
Neon defines Core R3 as an advance in the sphere of behavioral neural networks, evolutionary generative intelligence and computational reality. The company said it’s inspired by the rhythmic complexities of nature and extensively trained with how humans look, behave and interact. However, the latency of Core R3 is less than a few milliseconds. As it was exhibited, the Neons could respond just almost immediately, letting one interact and respond in real-time. “CORE R3 can computationally create a lifelike reality that is beyond normal perception to distinguish,” Neon said in its FAQ.
On the other hand, Spectra is still in the development stage. The company said it will preview the technology at an event called “Neonworld 2020” later this year. It didn’t say when or where that would take place. We also expect to see some improvements as they are also working on perfecting its Core R3 engine.
Privacy and Security
There were a lot of concerns on whether the Neons will be used for deepfakes or videos manipulated to show real people doing or saying something they didn’t before. Neon responded that while the avatar may be based on the appearance of a real person, the technology is “fundamentally different from deepfake or other facial reanimation techniques.”
The company said, “CORE R3 does not manipulate an individual scene, videos or sequences. Instead, it creates unique behaviors and interactions of Neons in real-time that never happened before. Thus, CORE R3 creates new realities.” The Core R3 is designed with ethical considerations related to privacy and trust in mind. It secures data by applying state-of-the-art security protocols.