VIDEOS: At IBM Think 2018, Greg Cross talks about the technology behind Soul Machines™ digital humans

Soul Machines™ uses IBM Watson technology to create digital humans and helps companies personalize their customer interactions.

Watch the interviews with Greg Cross at IBM Think 2018.

 “We’ve got a whole technology stack of our own which we call our Human Computing Engine, and that’s, if you like, the user interface or the user experience level for an AI platform.” Explains Greg Cross, Chief Business Officer, Soul Machines™.  “Watson’s a big part of what we deliver to customers like Autodesk, Daimler-Benz Financial Services and Royal Bank of Scotland.” Explains Greg Cross, Chief Business Officer, Soul Machines™.

Videos produced by IBM Client Stories |29 May 2018 | #IBMClientVoices

VIDEO: CNN – What if a digital twin could go to work for you?

by Jenny Marc | @CNNTECH | 23 May 2018

In the future, you’ll absolutely have an artificial version of yourself that goes out performing tasks that you really don’t want to do.    Liam Malone | Business Development Manager | Soul Machines™

 Meet Cora. She's a customer service avatar designed by New Zealand company Soul Machines. But what will digital 'humans' entering the work force mean for us? Meet Cora. She’s a customer service avatar designed by New Zealand company Soul Machines™. But what will digital ‘humans’ entering the work force mean for us?

“At some point in 2018 going live with Cora is our ambition”

— Kevin Hanley | Director of Innovation | NATWEST

“There have been other virtual agents which are avatar-based but I haven’t seen anything that is quite as realistic. ”

— Simone Stumpf | Senior Lecturer | City University of London

HOT OFF THE PRESS: How Autodesk’s assistant Ava attempts to avoid uncanny valley

Article by Khari Johnson  | Venture Beat | May 18, 2018

As Google’s Duplex made clear a week ago, the uncanny valley can have consequences. That was true before AI, and it’s a notion tested on a regular basis now that intelligent machines have entered the mix.

In the same week that Duplex made its world premiere, Autodesk began to roll out its avatar and AI-powered assistant Ava, which traverses uncanny valley as well.

Ava appears on portions of the Autodesk website and will later be placed in Autodesk software. The avatar looks remarkably lifelike and will continue to evolve, Autodesk director of machine assistance Rachael Rekart told VentureBeat in an interview at Autodesk offices in San Francisco.

In the coming weeks, the assistant will even be able to analyze facial expressions and analyze voices to detect emotions like joy, sadness, and frustration. Real-time knowledge of a person’s emotional state will allow Ava to share an emotional reaction on her face in return.

Look away or stop paying attention and Ava will notice and ask if you want to pause your conversation.

 A version of Ava (Autodesk virtual assistant) from fall 2017 created by Soul Machines A version of Ava (Autodesk virtual assistant) from fall 2017 created by Soul Machines™

The Ava avatar was made by Soul Machines™, a New Zealand company that believes in making digital people and raising them like a child. Before making Ava, Soul Machines™ CEO Mark Sagar won an Academy Award for animating characters for movies like Avatar, King Kong, and Spider-Man 2.

In an interview with VentureBeat last year, Sagar said roughly 20 percent of people he introduces his baby avatar to at conferences are creeped out, but his purpose is to create deep, personal connections that cannot be achieved by cartoon character, company mascot, or brand logo.

“The brain reacts differently to something it perceives to be alive versus something which it perceives to be inanimate,” he said. “If you ever see a realistic eye looking at you, you’re much more likely to respond than if you see a cartoon eye looking at you.”

Rekart says the Ava avatar hasn’t received much user backlash yet, perhaps due to the fact that a number of steps were taken to disrupt the uncanny valley feeling. Like Duplex, Ava begins by telling people, “I am a virtual assistant.”

“We get a lot of mixed feedback on purple eyes, but that’s an intentional move so that we are making her right out the gate not human,” she said. “I honestly think this is really about being transparent, is the only way to do this. The uncanny valley is all about feeling tricked and uneasy because it almost looks too real. If you are being transparent with your customers that ‘Hey, I’m not real, no matter how real I look’ — that’s the way that we’ve decided to approach it.”

 Above: The original version of Ava prior to Soul Machines' involvement in the project. Image credit: Autodesk Above: The original version of Ava prior to Soul Machines™’ involvement in the project. Image credit: Autodesk

From her New Zealand accent to her blazer jacket, Ava was made with her depicted race, ethnicity, and business attitudes in mind.

“We put a lot of work into her overall image and voice, and the intention behind it is for her to be ethnically ambiguous,” she said. “She’s supposed to represent a multicultural company, because Autodesk is multicultural, so we did things like slant her eyes more to represent more of an Asian culture and made her lips bigger to represent more of an African culture.”

Ava’s conversational AI was made by a team of 13 that includes many recent college graduates with backgrounds in creative writing, UX design, and computer science.

The team began with the Ava chatbot. Preceding the avatar, Ava’s AI for text or voice conversations was trained with things like knowledge from company forums and conversations with customers in emails over the years. Ava now carries out 100,000 customer conversations a month. Over the course of the next year, Autodesk intends to test the Ava avatar in new settings, like voice control for automated workflows and helping people navigate complicated tasks.

The choice was made to put so much work into Ava because it’s the future, Rekart said.

“We decided to make this expansion because it’s really just where we see the evolution of chatbots and digital assistants in the customer support space going,” Rekart said. “The only way to get through uncanny valley is to go through it.”


VIDEO: Greg Cross as a keynote speaker at the BCG Middle East CEO Forum sharing what AI will bring to the world

The BCG Middle East CEO Forums in Riyadh and Dubai featuring business leaders across a diverse range of industry sectors. The Forum focused on the topic of Artificial Intelligence and how it can value to business.  Greg Cross appeared as keynote speaker for this exciting, forward-thinking forum.

Talking about AI and the role which machines will have in our future is a really important conversation.”  Greg Cross – CBO | Soul Machines™ at the BCG Middle East CEO Forum

I was particularly impressed by the appetite, the openness of these leaders to take advantage of new technologies in general and artificial intelligence in particular.”  Dr. Yves Morieux – Senior Partner and Managing Director | The Boston Consulting Group

 During the event a number of topics related to AI including the evolution from programming to learning, humanizing AI to create a better future and the new role of management with AI, were discussed During the event a number of topics related to AI including the evolution from programming to learning, humanizing AI to create a better future and the new role of management with AI, were discussed

BCG Demonstrates the Impact of AI on the Future Workplace During the Middle East CEO Forum

From Alawaba Business press release | May 7, 2018

The Boston Consulting Group (BCG), the annual BCG Middle East CEO Forums, hosted an invitation-only event, which brought together global and regional speakers and leaders, on May 3, 2018. BCG hosts its annual forum with the overall objective of encouraging discourse to drive the agenda forward, and 2018’s forums saw internationally renowned speakers discussed the most pressing issues related to artificial intelligence (AI), enabling attendees to discover new pools of value and competitive advantage for their businesses. The event was held at Palazzo Versace Dubai, UAE and CEOs from a variety of industries attended. During the event a number of topics related to AI including the evolution from programming to learning, humanizing AI to create a better future and the new role of management with AI, were discussed.

“We are witnessing increasing commitment from GCC governments and corporations when it comes to bringing AI to the mainstream. The launch of the UAE Strategy for Artificial Intelligence is the first of its kind in the world and will address a variety of future services, sectors and infrastructure projects. For UAE businesses, the adoption of AI offers a unique opportunity to radically enhance their competitive advantage through new offerings, sharper value propositions, and more efficient processes,” said Joerg Hildebrandt, Senior Partner & Managing Director at BCG Middle East. “While companies are expecting a lot from AI, few are actually using it. Our event aimed to demystify the technology and demonstrating its tangible benefits for organizations.”

The Forum welcomed esteemed speakers from across the globe who shared their knowledge, expertise and thoughts around AI. Attendees of the Forum also received a live-demonstration of a humanized AI-personality, where the audience interacted with a digital human named Rachel. The live-demonstration gave the guests a first-hand experience of what the future of AI will bring to the world.  These speakers included Jean-Philippe Desbiolles, Vice President at IBM Watson Group; Greg Cross, Artificial Intelligence Pioneer & Chief Business Officer at Soul Machines; Philip Evans, Senior Advisor and BCG Fellow at The Boston Consulting Group; Dr. Yves Morieux, Director of the BCG Institute for Organization at The Boston Consulting Group; and Bjoern Ewers, Partner and Managing Director at The Boston Consulting Group.

“AI is not some complex and mysterious tool, it is a very real technology that can enhance your business. Participating in this leadership event was incredibly insightful; the GCC as a whole is considering AI as part of its government strategies, and businesses in the region are very keen to adopt this new technology; the CEO Forum demonstrated ways to make AI work in the business environment,” said Dr. Yves Morieux, Director of the BCG Institute for Organization.

EVENT: Showcasing Soul Machines™ Technology in London

In a live interactive forum at the 2018 Corporate Summit in the CNBC studios in London,  Liam MaloneBusiness Development Manager at Soul Machines™ – joined a panel of technology innovators, executives and professionals to discuss ‘The Transhuman Code – Managing the Future of Technology and Humanity’ and share some of the technology of Soul Machines™.

For more information : 2018 Corporate Growth Summit, London 2018

BLOG: We’re Humanizing Artificial Intelligence

“I just had a face-to-face conversation with a computer!  
A computer that looks and behaves like a person.”

That may sound like a line from a sci-fi movie and feel very much like tomorrow’s world but it is in fact right here, right now. An artificial human who can talk to you as if you’re having a conversation with a real person.

Not so long ago, computers were beige, bulky machines that clicked and whirred utilizing cumbersome code to generate what we deem now as simple information.  The tech was mechanical and regimented which made it unapproachable, unfriendly and un-human. In order to use it, we had to learn how to communicate with a machine.  Now, Soul Machines™ is reversing the paradigm by making computers learn how to communicate like a human.  If we create a computer interface that is more human-focused then it’s more relatable and more understanding. What we’re doing is humanizing artificial intelligence.

So how DO you humanize AI?

Humans are, after all, complex beings and respond to a myriad of inputs at any one given time. We listen to things. We express things. We react to things.  If you want to know if someone is paying attention to what you’re saying, just observe their eye movements and where they are looking.  Does their body language indicate interest or indifference? If you’re telling a moving story does their face show compassion or intolerance?  How our senses interconnect to interpret multiple inputs from interactions and emotions is not a simple process, which is why humans have a nervous system that can handle all these variables.  And this is why Soul Machines™ have a created the world’s first virtual nervous system so our artificial humans can manage complex situations and interact with us in a way we can relate to.

What are the benefits?

Now, instead of cold, soulless machines that have only one pre-programmed way of responding we can interact with an emotionally-responsive artificial human that has all the elegance and subtle facial expressions and reactions of a real person.  Suddenly technology has gained an enhancement of communication that catapults it out of the machine world and into the real world.

The very fact that the computer now has a face which can express a thousand words through detailed micro-expressions, also engenders trust because the artificial human is not only looking at you, it’s listening, paying attention and responding. With the virtual nervous system, it doesn’t need to be programmed every time it interacts with you because it is learning and reacting on-the-fly as people do; making every interaction uniquely different.  

So, if we build it like a person it will behave like a person, and the better technology will work with us.