We’re all familiar with Sophia, the social robot, but quite frankly, her conversation skills need an update, and her personality seems to have lost its appeal. As an ‘intelligent’ robot, Sophia seems to be lacking in basic intelligence, and the ability to learn from others.
Now meet VeRonika, the digital human. VeRonika, or Roni for short, is an artificially intelligent avatar inhabiting a virtual reality (VR) realm. Unless you’ve got access to a holodeck, you need to don some VR glasses to actually meet Roni. But Roni isn’t just a computerized chatbot; the AI has been educated with real video recordings, interviews, and writings of a person – in fact several people, so we’ll refer to Roni as ‘them’.
Roni’s appearance is transhuman and gender neutral, but they accurately mimic a real human’s mannerisms and can hold a spirited conversation about most social and technology issues. It’s a bit like those deepfake videos that put words into celebrities’ mouths, but it’s not scripted. Roni responds naturally, and isn’t shy to voice opinions or promote opposing views. It’s just like talking to a real person. A slightly weird, but very smart person.
Avatar technology has been used to extend the digital lives of loved ones and great people, but that’s generally limited to a fixed set of legacy data. Roni can learn on an ongoing basis, and can develop unique, maturing conversational skills, even if one of the source humans drops out. Roni never forgets anything!
Which makes one wonder: What would it be like to have your own AI Avatar, constantly learning from and mimicking you? How would your avatar evolve, learning like you do from your role models, perhaps after you’ve passed on? Could it be a version of digital immortality, while we’re waiting for the tech to upload our brains directly to the cloud?
And when robotic tech matures, so that we have lifelike replicas of ourselves, powered by our personal Ronis, to help us out and take over where we leave off – then we might truly understand what life as an avatar is like!