PRESS: Is NZ Ready for Artificial Intelligence?

Excerpt from INSIGHT on Radio New Zealand | 25 March 2018

Story by Philippa Tolley, Insight Executive Producer

Dire warnings have been made about the impact of artificial intelligence, robotics and automation on jobs and society. But after being flagged for years, what steps have New Zealand and New Zealanders taken to be ready?

 Soul Machines Chief Business Officer, Greg Cross, hopes digital humans will in where there are shortages Soul Machines™ Chief Business Officer, Greg Cross, hopes digital humans will in where there are shortages

New Zealanders are used to the idea of automation and industrial robots in manufacturing and some homes have those disc shaped vacuum cleaners roaming the house of their own volition in order to keep everything spick and span. Many people have exchanged messages with chat bots online in order to get a few questions answered. But a New Zealand company, Soul Machines™, has taken the chat bot idea to the next level and developed so called “digital humans.”  

Just over a month ago, the Natwest Bank in the UK started testing an artificial intelligence-powered “digital human” called Cora who will converse with customers from a terminal in bank branches, with the aim of cutting down on waiting times. The bank hopes Cora’s artificial intelligence will eventually expand to answering hundreds of different questions, but at the same time insists the avatar is there to complement, not replace humans.

Cora is a British sounding version of a digital human created by the Auckland based company, Soul Machine. She is based on a real New Zealander, Rachel, who is an avatar engineer with the company. The sky is almost the limit for this type of technology in the eyes of the chief business officer, Greg Cross. Not only is the company developing digital humans for customers such as the automotive industry and the banking and finance industries, but he can see the technology helping  in a wide range of areas such as specialist teaching in more remote places and medical services.

“Maybe AI in combinations with our digital humans can provide a level of service and a level of knowledge that previously people just haven’t had access to because nobody wants to provide those services or can afford to provide those services.”

For the full story click here

 

VIDEO: Meet Ava,Your Personal Assistant

Cheddar.com | March 20, 2018 Rachael Rekart, Director of Machine Assistance at Autodesk, joins the Cheddar news team to discuss how artificial intelligence is helping creators bring their visions to life.

CLICK ON THE IMAGE BELOW TO WATCH THE INTERVIEW

 Cheddar.com is a live and on demand video news network focused on covering the most innovative products, technologies, and services transforming our lives.

Cheddar.com is a live and on demand video news network focused on covering the most innovative products, technologies, and services transforming our lives.

‘We have developed an Autodesk Virtual Assistant named Ava and have partnered with Soul Machines™ to bring her from chat only to a voice and video representation. We are also enabling the ability for our customers to engage with Ava while she is able to read and respond to emotions during the interaction with the hope of actually improving the overall engagement through emotional intelligence”

Rachel Rekart – Director or Machine Assistance at Autodesk.

   

RADIO: Greg Cross on RadioLIVE talks about where the tech of AI can take us

Listen to Greg Cross on RadioLIVE

Article from RadioLIVE | 01 March 2018

NZ needs to embrace AI or will be left behind – expert

Auckland company Soul Machines™ is on the cutting edge of world technology in artificial intelligence.

They have recently been working with IBM on a human-like avatar named ‘Rachel’ using emotional cognitive intelligence to recognise and respond to human needs and emotions.

Soul Machines™ Chief Business Officer Greg Cross says that New Zealand needs to embrace AI technology or will be quickly left behind.

He says jumping on the AI bandwagon is a big challenge but a big opportunity for New Zealand companies.

Greg Cross joins Stephen McIvor on RadioLIVE Drive to talk about where the tech of AI can take us.

Drive with Stephen McIvor, 3pm – 6pm Weekdays and streaming live on ‘rova’ channel 9 – available on Android and iPhone.

 

HOT OFF THE PRESS: Daimler Finance CIO Seeks Digital Assistant With Emotional Intelligence

“It will be a game changer,’ says CIO Udo Neumann

By Sara Castellanos and Kim S. Nash | The Wall Street Journal | Mar 1, 2018

 Udo Neumann, global chief information officer for Daimler Financial Services, standing next to Sarah, the 'digital human,' at 2018's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Photo: Daimler AG Udo Neumann, global chief information officer for Daimler Financial Services, standing next to Sarah, the ‘digital human,’ at 2018’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Photo: Daimler AG

Digital assistants on the market now can help customers with tasks like finding the right pair of jeans and making payments to credit cards, all while being polite, helpful and sometimes witty.

Udo Neumann, global chief information officer for Daimler Financial Services, is exploring how digital assistance could go even further.

An assistant with a human-like “face,” with instant access to helpful data and programmed to detect how people are feeling and respond accordingly, could help gain customer and employee trust, Mr. Neumann said. “It’s clearly the next step in the development of an evolving technology, (where) emotions come into play.”

 Daimler Financial's Sarah can react to spoken and typed words as well as non-verbal queues. Photo: Daimler AG Daimler Financial’s Sarah can react to spoken and typed words as well as non-verbal queues. Photo: Daimler AG

Daimler Financial Services, a division of Daimler AG, announced this week it’s partnering with New Zealand startup Soul Machines™ on a proof-of-concept project to see how a digital assistant with a face and a name could give personalized help to employees and customers.

The companies, which have worked together for several months, are developing a “digital human” built with AI software from IBM Watson that can be programmed to answer questions related to car financing, leasing and insurance, and capabilities to recognize non-verbal cues using face recognition technology.

“It will be a game changer. I think we humans love to have interactions on an emotional basis,” Mr. Neumann said.

Neural networking and machine learning tools lets an early version, named Sarah, react to spoken and typed words as well as non-verbal queues such as a loud noise or a nodding head in agreement.

Sarah can be programmed with highly specialized knowledge about, for example, the latest Mercedes models and information about leasing options, said Greg Cross, chief business officer at Soul Machines™.

“They learn to recognize you, learn about your personality type and respond and create conversational content that matches you,” Mr. Cross said.

The project is in the early stages of development, with no date set for when Sarah could be deployed to employees or customers, Mr. Neumann said. “We want to combine artificial intelligence and emotional intelligence and see how these capabilities come together,” he said.

The digital human could eventually act as a “companion” for employees at a call center or training center, he said. For customers, talking to such an avatar might increase purchases among those who feel intimidated by high-pressure sales staff, said Mr. Cross.

“Some people don’t feel comfortable in a sales room. They will have a conversation in their living room,” he said.

Then, when a customer visits a dealership for a test drive, the customer and the salesperson could converse with the avatar at a kiosk, sharing information, Mr. Cross said.

Unlike humans, Soul Machines™’ digital assistant can be programmed only with traits that help it perform a job, he said. Anger and frustration, for example, will not exist. “The digital sales person simply will not have these traits,” he said.

The goal isn’t to replace a human salesperson, though. “It becomes another way a customer can interact with the company,” he said.