Is your friendship circle ready for a virtual human? AI is getting better and better by the day, and as technological advancements are made it’s becoming increasingly popular. Still, it’s early days and we’ve yet to see the full potential of this exciting technology. However, Samsung recently debuted artificial humans called Neons, who scarily resemble the real thing. Has the age of virtual humans arrived? Let’s take a look. 

What is AI?  

Artificial Intelligence, or AI, is a form of machine learning and intelligence, which mirrors the way that humans function. AI systems will usually show at least some of the following behaviours, generally associated with humans: planning, learning, problem solving, reasoning, knowledge representation, perception, social intelligence, creativity, and manipulation. Essentially, AI systems are designed to function similarly to humans, at least cognitively. 

Neons 

Samsung recently introduced Neons, virtual humans that look and act eerily similar to the real thing. The Neons were created by Neon, a company that started in Samsung’s Technology and Advanced Research Labs. They were presented at CES 2020, and seem to have a few human limitations programmed into them. For example, Neons don’t know everything like Alexa or Google Assistant. They’re each unique in appearance and personality, rather than being carbon copies of one prototype. 

According to Neon, “Neons are more like us, an independent but virtual living being, who can show emotions and learn from experiences. Unlike AI assistants, Neons do not know it all, and they are not an interface to the Internet to ask for weather updates or to play your favorite music.” 

So what exactly do they do?
They pretty much act human. They can acquire skills, form memories, have conversations, and behave according to their set personality. Neons could find jobs as teachers, health-care professionals, actors or concierges – it’s basically down to their programming. As Neon put it, they can conduct “goal-oriented tasks or can be personalized to assist in tasks that require human touch.”

In the initial press release, CEO of Neon and head of STAR Labs, Pranav Mistry said, “Neons will be our friends, collaborators and companions, continually learning, evolving and forming memories from their interactions.”

Neon was also quick to highlight that Neon is “NOT about Bixby” in a Twitter post in December. Bixby is Samsung’s version of Google Assistant, and it’s gotten some flack for being kind of irritating. 

The Neons are still in their early development stage, and currently act like AI chatbots in human form. In the future, STAR Labs want people to be able to essentially employ Neons, with them being able to offer various different services. At the electronics event, visitors could see live demonstrations of life-size Neons on large displays as they reacted and responded to their audience in real-time.

According to Mistry, “Neon is like a new kind of life. There are millions of species on our planet and we hope to add one more.”

So has the age of virtual humans arrived? Not quite – the Neons are still pretty much glorified chatbots, but they’re definitely a step forward.

Would you befriend a Neon? 

The question of whether or not the age of virtual humans has arrived is one thing – but would you befriend a Neon? STAR Labs’ plan is for Neons to essentially integrate into society, in some way, shape or form, but how would you feel about receiving customer service from one of them? As we step into the future, will more virtual humans claim roles in our society, and how exactly will they fit in? Whatever the case, the Neons are coming sooner than we think. 

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