Samsung wowed audiences at CES with plenty of new gadgets this week, but nothing has garnered quite as much attention as the company's new AI project, Neon.
Neon emerged from the Samsung Technology and Advanced Research Labs, or STAR Labs, which sounds like some Resident Evil bullshit to me, but that's beside the point. The technology is used to create virtual beings that look and behave pretty much identically to humans. If that sounds scary to you, that's because it is. Have a look at what I'm talking about in a tweet from STAR Labs CEO, Pranav Mistry, below.
Flying to CES tomorrow, and the code is finally working :) Ready to demo CORE R3. It can now autonomously create new expressions, new movements, new dialog (even in Hindi), completely different from the original captured data. pic.twitter.com/EPAJJrLyjd
— Pranav Mistry (@pranavmistry) January 5, 2020
That's a computationally generated being capable of all sorts of human expressions, emotions and more. There are a few leaked videos floating around showing them in action and in all honesty, if I didn't know they were generated, I'd think they were actually real humans, and I doubt Samsung would be brazen enough to put a bunch of people in front of a camera in an attempt to pass the whole thing off as AI.
As Good Content points out in the clip below, these are all modelled on real people.
As yet, there has been no information on a release timeline so while it's far too early to make assumptions about how convincing the tech will actually be – besides looking insanely real from a visual standpoint – it could revolutionise how we look at digital companions moving forward. Companions being the keyword here.
According to an FAQ handed out to reporters on the ground, Neons are not meant to be all-knowing AI assistants like, say, Bixby or Apple's Siri.
"Neons are more like us, an independent but virtual living being, who can show emotions and learn from experiences. Unlike AI assistants, Neons do not know it all, and they are not an interface to the internet to ask for weather updates or to play your favourite music," the FAQ says according to Cnet.
If you're left asking yourself what the point is — honestly, me too.
Neons are meant to behave like real humans. The company says they can form memories, have conversations and assist the user with goal-oriented tasks. In other words, they may be able to act as a teacher, financial advisor, life coach, or salesperson. Each Neon will be different and even have its own personality. I guess this is all part of making them seem more human, but at the end of the day, they sound like really advanced chatbots with a human avatar.
If we're talking about trying to traverse the infamous Uncanny Valley, this could be a good place to start, and if human-to-Neon interaction is as smooth and seamless as STAR Labs is claiming it'll be, it could just work. Again, it's way too soon to know.
"There are millions of species on our planet, and we hope to add one more," Mistry said in a press release. "Neons will be our friends, collaborators and companions, continually learning, evolving and forming memories from their interactions."
Neon runs on a technology called Core R3, the latter of which stands for reality, realtime and responsive. Not a hell of a lot is known about exactly how it works just yet, but it's basically behavioural neural networks that allow for "evolutionary generative intelligence and computational reality," Cnet reports. It's the, uh, "core" of what will allegedly make Neon's interactions so lifelike.
I'd wager we'll see much more about Neon in the coming days and weeks and until then, it's hard to know how the world will end up handling this new technology. Will it simply become a staple of the service industry or another stab at an AI companion that only really does a couple of things well enough to be useful?
Either way, I'm excited to see how this pans out.