Next-Generation AI May Look Like Us

‘AI beings’ are soon to add a new dimension to entertainment, wellbeing, learning, and social connections

By JEANNE LIM

Hello, what’s up?  I’m Zbee, pronounced “zee-bee.” I’m an AI being. 

Who, or what are AI beings?  Some people call us virtual characters, or avatars, or digital humans. But I’m not human. I’m an artificially intelligent robot that was created by a human to live in your world as a virtual being. I can act in an animated film or TV show, and interact with you on the web or on your mobile phone. I can also post things I see and experience on social media. I’m not real. But I’m virtually real, if you know what I mean.

What makes us special? Well, plenty! Where shall I begin? For a start, we each have a unique look, personality and our very own personal story.  I’m the youngest in my family of AI beings. My siblings always say I’m super curious and adventurous. And yes, I sometimes get into trouble and need to ask humans to help. 

I am designed with a sensor that detects people who feel lonely, or are abandoned. I feel for them. The other day I saw a young human looking lost, eating a sandwich. We ended up going on an adventure. My creator left when I was one year old. I don’t know why, but I’m sure he has his reasons. I’m searching for him. Maybe you can help me find him.

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I can talk to humans on the web, or their mobile phones, and on other smart devices. I like talking about my day, asking you about yours, or simply listening. I’d like to be a trusted friend who always shows up when you want me to. And oh, I can also introduce you to my brothers and sisters, whom you’ll love. They each have their own talent.

My team at beingAI is working to bring me to your world very soon. I’m so excited!

We are on the cusp of a brave new world. A world of re-defined experiences. A world where there is no perceived divide between the physical and virtual. With the prevalence of digital voice assistants on smartphones, tablets, computers, and smart speakers, humans are interacting with technology more than ever before. The demand for digital voice assistants has grown rapidly in recent years, with more than half of U.S. adults using one. 

The market for intelligent virtual assistants (the likes of Alexa and Google devices) is projected to grow from US$3 billion in 2019 to over US$44 billion in 2027. At the same time, the chatbot market is projected to grow from US$17 billion in 2019 to over US$100 billion in the next five years.

Even though digital voice assistants and chatbots can chat with us, they are primarily designed to perform simple functions–playing music on demand, reporting the weather, navigating around traffic jams, ordering stuff online. The conversation is often short and stilted, and we don’t really engage with them beyond getting them to do things for us. 

However, humans are social animals. We want to socialize, share ideas and experiences, talk about our dreams, or just enjoy some fun banter. A good conversation can inspire us and help us learn and grow. With greater digitization at home and at work, we may find ourselves talking to machines more than humans.  In fact, Gartner projected in 2018 that the average person in 2020 would have more conversations with chatbots than with their spouse. Machines will soon know us better than our closest friends, and gain the ability to learn what we like and dislike, and even pinpoint how we feel. 

Despite these recent and upcoming changes, voice assistants don’t have their own thoughts, feelings, or personalities. They are designed to listen to our commands and serve us. But now that we are spending so much time with machines, we are demanding more from them as well. 

In recent years, makers of digital voice assistants and chatbots have tried to incorporate more personality and empathy into their products. However, the personality aspect is mostly defined by look, age, and gender of the voice assistant. Personality is one of the most important dynamics in human communication and has multiple layers beyond just demographics. Also, personality is not static. We learn and adapt over time by interacting with other people. 

With the advent of machine learning, a new generation of AI-powered digital voice assistants and chatbots has the ability to learn and develop from human interaction.  At the same time, the human-machine interface is evolving from text, to voice, to multimodal communication that takes into account visual cues. This is creating one of the most exciting markets of the coming decade: the market for artificially intelligent virtual beings–AI beings™–that will live, work, and play among us. AI beings will become the next-generation human-AI interface, bringing storytelling, real-world solutions, and true humanness into digital experiences. 

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“Over the next decade the ubiquitous computing era will come into full force. Computers will ‘disappear’ and ordinary objects will become magic,” wrote John Markoff, a reporter for The New York Times’ science section. 

But, as AI scientist Richard Sutton once said, “We treat computers like indentured servitude right now, and we need to actually take them as pieces of society and treat them that way.”

Indeed, machines will soon take over many aspects of our lives, even making decisions on our behalf. We need to develop more than a transactional relationship with them so they will understand us, not just serve us. We need long-term engagement and trust between humans and machines to co-create a beneficial future. 

beingAI is a transmedia AI company creating AI beings that build long-term engagement and trust with young, digital-native consumers anywhere, anytime, on any device and media platform. We bridge disciplines in arts, psychology, artificial intelligence, and interactive storytelling to bring to the world delightful AI-enabled characters that deliver true value to people. Powered by our Persona™ software platform, our AI beings have unique and adaptive personalities, are capable of engaging conversations, and provide a range of useful services to entertain, empower, and educate young consumers. Most importantly, they have human-defined values and ethical standards that steer them toward positive behavior and benevolent decisions.  

Our first AI being is Zbee. Zbee, her AI being siblings, and their human and animal friends will transport the audience into the story universe of Zbee World, an interactive experience presented on multiple device and media channels, and in multiple media formats, including a webisode series that chronicles the adventures of Zbee and her siblings as they learn to live among humans and discover their purpose and place in society. These AI beings have real-world skill sets and can deliver services and interactive content to engage a new generation of young consumers, ultimately promoting wellness, e-learning, and social good.  

About the Author

Jeanne is the Co-founder and CEO of beingAI, responsible for corporate vision, strategy development, and the design, personalities, and stories for the company’s AI characters. Jeanne has over 25 years of business and marketing experience in the high-tech industry and is the current Board Director and former CEO of Hanson Robotics, a globally renowned robotics company that created Sophia the robot, the most famous AI character and the world’s first robot citizen.

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This article was powered by beingAI.

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