Little did we all know just how much time would be spent in video conference calls as part of work from home life. Creative Technologist Matt Reed has already reached his capacity for Zoom meetings, so he created an AI-powered digital twin that can sit in on calls for him, complete with voice-activated automated responses.
This isn’t the first time we’ve marveled at Reed’s ability to harness technology to handle mundane tasks. A few years ago he built a camera-equipped robotic arm that used facial recognition to automatically locate Waldo in the popular children’s books. The world is a completely different place right now, but artificial intelligence has continued to advance, and thanks to Reed it’s now handling even more crucial tasks.
Reed has shared a longer explainer of how his Zoombot works over on redpepper’s website, but it started with a handful of selfie screenshots he snapped in Quicktime of himself sitting at his desk, with various head poses and states of speech, while staring at his computer’s webcam. These were then used as source material for a custom webapp Reed created that relies on an open-source tool called Artyom.js that can trigger automated synthesized responses using voice recognition.
The last ingredient was a piece of software called ManyCam that can create virtual webcam feeds from stills or existing video files. When all of it is working together, a digital doppelgänger of Reed is created that appears alongside all of his real-life coworkers in Zoom conference calls. It listens for questions posed to Reed specifically, and then in a hilariously choppy fashion it triggers canned responses such as, “I’m having trouble hearing you” when someone asks, “Did you get that?”
It’s far from convincing, which is what might be Zoombot’s greatest strength as it will help infuse another drawn-out conference call with some much-needed levity, as is evident by the reaction of Reed’s co-workers once they start to realise what they’re seeing and interacting with. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be just a gag. Reed has offered to share his source code with anyone who hits him up via Twitter, and with some fine-tuning and attention to detail, there’s a chance you could create your own digital twin for conference calls while you secretly nap, do dishes, or go for a walk.