Samsung “Artificial Man,” prequel to “Westworld”

It’s the annual CES. In addition to the external slot CES into a “car show” “TV show”, every year we still see some eye-catching products. This year, THE NEON, which is backed by Samsung, is the project of concern. Since the end of last year, Samsung’s artificial intelligence project NEON has been warming up on social media, with speculation sly lying about “bionics” and “artificial people.”

On January 7th the AI project finally came to light, with officialteams defining it directly as a “new species”. Artificial intelligence assistant is not a new concept, how can NEON be different?

Artificial intelligence not a smart assistant.

By product definition, NEON and Siri, Alexa and other voice assistants are two categories of products.

First, NEON has an “image” that appears on the screen as a virtual human image and reacts to instructions, such as chatting and laughing with users, according to STARLabs, the producer.

NEON’s core competence is certainly not the front-end character, but the calculation power behind it, which can generate a variety of images, that is, the so-called thousands of people.

You should notice that these avatars are different from the head charts.

“As time goes on, NEON will become a TV anchor, a spokesperson or a movie actor, and they can just be your partner and friend. NEON said.

In theory, can you see a movie with a full ynon virtual character in the future?

The other difference between NEON and Siri is that it’s not a question-and-answer assistant.

According to officials, it can’t answer questions like a normal smart voice assistant, such as what the weather will be like tomorrow, what day Lincoln died, and what the deepest trench on Earth is. Its positioning is more in favor of a living person, and an ordinary person, really can not master all knowledge like a machine.

The official explanation for the design is: “NEON is not an artificial intelligence assistant, more like us humans, is an independent creature that can express emotions and learn from them.” Unlike a Number One assistant, NEON does n’go of searching the internet for weather and can’t play your favorite music. “

NEON’s ability is reflected in the ability to learn expressions, skills, and reactions. Through machine learning accumulated data and capabilities, they evolve more like real-life characters such as actors, speakers, television anchors, and so on. The team said it had the ability to be sympathetic and truly understand what humans think.

Photo: Quantum Bit

“There are millions of species on the planet, and we want to add one more,” said Pranav Mistry, Neon’s chief executive and head of STARLabs. NEON will be our friend and partner, constantly learning and developing and creating unique memories from our interactions. “

From the demo video, NEON created the virtual image, in addition to the texture of clothes and skin there is some “CG taste”, a smile has been very close to the real human, even if long staring at, there will be no so-called “valley of terror” effect (human to look like people but not human things, natural fear and disgust).

STARLabs showcases several images of NEON: yoga instructors, bankers, K-pop stars, news anchors and fashion models, and NEON hopes to involve avatars in these careers.

In fact, virtual idols, home yoga instructors, news anchors and other fields, we have seen a lot of related applications, such as Luo Tianyi, the video of the fitness instructor, Sogou has previously launched virtual anchors and so on. If NEON technology passes, it seems that we will soon see virtual characters on the job.

Technically, NEON relies on two engines, the CORER3 engine, which brings real-time responsiveness to Neon, while the SPECTRA engine is responsible for providing intelligence, learning, emotion and memory, which is still being developed.

Regarding privacy and data security, NEON promises that “no one but the user and his NEON can access NEON’s interactions and. NEON does not share private data without the user’s permission. “

Of course, the specific effect depends on the actual effect of the final product. The bad news is that NEON is still in a very early stage, with real-world beta testing expected to be done with partners later this year, with no announcement on pricing and specific scenarios.

The team behind it

NEON has a strong relationship with Samsung, but behind it is an independent company, starLabs, a Samsung Technology and Advanced Research Labs, a Samsung-funded research firm, in the Bay Area. Led by Research Director Pranav Mistry, who joined Samsung in 2012 as global vice president and head of Samsung Mobile innovation.

In 2009, Mistry, an MIT researcher, introduced a Sixth Sense projector-based augmented reality system on TED that projects the interfaces that users need in the real world.

Of course, the technology was certainly immature at the time, and he then chose to join Samsung in research into new projects, with Samsung’s smartwatch Galaxy Gear being the Indian executive’s lead.

NEON has a separate booth at CES, and the team stressed that although Neon was formed by Samsung’s research arm, it was not actually part of the Samsung Group, with STARLabs describing itself as “a completely independent, future-oriented company whose mission is to turn science fiction into reality.” “

In an interview with Livemint last December, Mistry mentioned that “virtual people” or “digital people” would become a reality and become part of our daily lives: virtual news anchors, virtual receptionists, and even AI movie stars. “

But he also noted that artificial intelligence still has a long way to go before science fiction becomes a reality, and that the scenes that NEON enjoy may not be a reality in a short time.

If NEON can achieve 100% of the expected technical targets, it is a step further than the existing group of intelligent assistants, robots. If it’s a voice of Scarlett Johansson (and it’s still a face), it might actually do something similar to the one in the movie “Her.”

For Samsung, the electronics giant, NEON is a second attempt at artificial intelligence. Samsung also has a “traditional” voice assistant, Bixby, but it does not have a strong sense of presence, neither has the same huge ecology as Alexa, and does not want Siri, Little Love and so on to rely on shipments to ensure usage. Despite being used in products such as refrigerators and televisions, Bixby’s situation is a bit awkward.

In August 2018, Samsung announced that it would spend $22 billion on AI by 2020 and hire 1,000 AI experts worldwide to find new growth drivers beyond mobile phones and memory chips.

NEON is so invested in the first big project, and it doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the phone or any existing electronics, it won’t be on the phone, it’s not like the virtual image of playing with tickets on some smartphones today.

It is worth noting that, like “virtual idols” and “yoga instructors” and other images, Samsung’s positioning of NEON is also entertainment-oriented.

According to the quantum bit article, CoreR3 is software for creating, viewing, manipulating, editing, storing, publishing and outputing virtual characters, according to information submitted to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office by Samsung, while NEON is presented as a virtual character-based entertainment service.

The ambition of Samsung and StarsLab is to make digital characters an integral part of our lives, both as partners and as professionals, to learn from and evolve a Kind of AI. Of course, the ideal is always good, there are many practical factors in front of NEON, such as the extent to which technology can be achieved, whether the demand is sustained and stable, and the cost of landing on the market.