Artificial Intelligence, known as AI, is nothing all that new. Scientists and robotics experts have spent decades improving systems that can respond and interact with humans while also serving a range of practical purposes. These have ranged from smart devices that are used around the home to life-like robots that can be used to perform many functions.
There has been plenty of developments in the area of robots that can support people who have mobility issues or a range of medical conditions. This form of AI is considered important as it can help those in need to enjoy a fulfilled life and to have the support they need without the necessity to have someone with them at all times, which is often costly and invasive.
One of the problems that researchers have faced is that AI is lacking in personality. The various gadgets are pre-programmed to give specific responses to questions. The developments have been huge in terms of what the robots can do as scientists have worked hard to develop technology that allows them to read situations by using a variety of clues, such as facial expressions, to give appropriate responses in different situations.
While this is all very clever, what scientists have really wanted to achieve for some time now is a robot that is so human it is hard to believe that it is not. They have dreamed of giving them more personality by working on their speech patterns, facial expressions, and body language.
Now, scientists think they have taken a huge leap towards achieving this dream with the creation of AVA. This is the name given to an Artificial Virtual Assistant that has recently been developed to mimic the personality of a human. To look at AVA, it is difficult to believe that she is not human as she expresses the same micro-expressions that a human would in response to various situations.
The New Zealand scientists who developed her took photographs of real people that were then processed in a computer to analyze all the different tiny expressions that people make as an emotional response. These were then used to recreate the expressions in AVA. These subtle expressions make all the difference to AVA looking completely human. She can get a slight crease of her forehead when she frowns, raises one side of her lip in a half smile when something has pleased her, and cock her eyebrow and widen her eyes in response to surprise.
This has been a long and arduous process for those involved in the project as they wanted to get the expressions just right, so they could make AVA as life-like as possible. They have named the technology they have used to achieve these results the Soul Machine because they believe they have made AVA so much more than an AI device.
Their technology has allowed AVA to respond to emotional stimuli in the same way that a human would, and this is not just evident in her facial expressions. There are very subtle changes in her voice in terms of its rhythm and tone that allow her to express herself.
When humans are communicating with each other, the words spoken are only one small part of conveying a message to the other person in the conversation. The rest is from a variety of cues, including the facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice. By developing AVA in a way that gives her voice tone, she is able to express her meaning with more than just words, just like a human.
The really clever part is that she does all this in response to the human with whom she is interacting. AVA’s technology is so advanced that she reads a person’s facial expressions and analyzes the tone and the rhythm of their voice before adapting to the situation and responding appropriately.
Although there is still a lot of work to be done, the potential for AVA and any other similar devices in the future is huge and they could actually serve quite an important purpose. One suggested use of such technology is to work as a personal assistant for people who are housebound. Not only could they help with practical matters, they could become a form of company for the person as loneliness is a big issue for people who are housebound due to illness.
AVA is still in development, so it could be a while before you see the final results of the work of the New Zealand scientists. It seems like the project has huge potential.
Written by Garrett Parker
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