This is neon, the "artificial man". Startup funded by Samsung – CNET

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Neons & # 39; artificial people & # 39; look real. Very real.

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This story is part of CES 2020, our complete coverage of the showroom and the latest technical equipment.

Neon's super-realistic digital people are real. Well, roughly.

The mysterious company that emerged from Samsung's Technology and Advanced Research Labs (also known as STAR Labs) made its debut late Monday at CES 2020 in Las Vegas. He described his technology, also known as neon, as "a computationally created virtual being that looks and behaves like a real person with the ability to show emotions and intelligence".

Basically, Neon makes avatars that look and act like real people. Neons are not omniscient intelligent assistants, androids, surrogate mothers, or copies of real people, the company said in a FAQ shared with reporters. They cannot tell you how old Abraham Lincoln was when he died.

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"Neons are not AI assistants," the company said. "Neons are more like us, an independent but virtual being that can show feelings and learn from experience. In contrast to AI assistants, neons don't know everything and they are not an interface to the Internet to ask for weather updates or to play yours Favorite music. "

Instead, they should have conversations and behave like real people. They form memories and learn new skills, but have no physical embodiment, at least not now. Neons can help with "targeted tasks" or can be personalized to help with tasks that require human touch. You can act as a teacher, financial advisor, healthcare provider, concierge, actor, speaker or TV presenter.

While they can borrow features from real people and have a similar look and voice, they can't be exact copies of existing people, Neon said. And every neon is unique, with its own personality.

"There are millions of species on our planet and we hope we can add one more," said Pranav Mistry, Neon CEO and Head of STAR Labs, in a press release. "Neons will be our friends, co-workers and companions who are constantly learning, developing and building memories from their interactions."

Before CES 2020 even started, Neon had generated some of the greatest enthusiasm for the world's largest tech show, That came despite – or maybe because of – the fact that nobody really knew what it was. neon tweeted After Neon launched its social media accounts in mid-December, there were some teasers that pointed to something that was labeled "artificial." http://www.cnet.com/ The only concrete fact that was known about Neon was that it was operated by Mistry, longtime Samsung Research Manager, who was named CEO of the technology giant's STAR Labs Research Arms in October ,

While Neon's realistic avatars could become companions for some people, they also raise questions about whether they could also realistic. Neon's technology seems to flirt with the "eerie valley", the feeling of disgust some people feel when they come across something that is very similar to a person but not exact.

An example of something that could not bridge the eerie valley was the film "The Polar Express" from 2004. The children's film showed a fully animated cast of characters that looked a bit lifelike – but not so lifelike that they were for real ones People would be confused. Instead, this realism failed and made some viewers feel uncomfortable.

Neon's hype

On Saturday, Mistry tweeted two photos of an avatar (or "artificial human"), whom he called "CORE R3". And unlisted videos discovered on Reddit and put together into a video from the Good Content Tech site on YouTube show various other human-like avatars that look very similar to real people.

"It can now autonomously generate new expressions, new movements and new dialogues (also in Hindi) that are completely different from the data originally recorded," tweeted Mistry.

The clues made people speculate about what neon could actually be. Could it be a replacement for Samsung's Bixby Smart Digital Assistant? (Neon shot down this theory Quite quickly.) Will it appear on Samsung devices? Does that mean we'll be living in a real version of HBOs soon? Westworld?

While Neon is funded by Samsung and is part of Samsung's STAR Labs, its avatars are not a Samsung product. It also has nothing to do with Bixby, Samsung's digital assistant, which first appeared in the Galaxy S8 in 2017. STAR Labs describes itself as a "completely independent future factory with the mission to turn science fiction into reality".

As companies such as Google, Amazon and, yes, Samsung have found, the key to actually using smart devices is to pack artificial intelligence, typically in the form of voice assistants. Every tech heavyweight invests in these assistants because they are advertised as the future of interacting with our gadgets. The ultimate promise for smart technology is to predict what you want before you even ask – or forget that you are not interacting with a real person.

Mistry said in an interview with Indian business news publication Mint last month that AI "still has many years to go before science fiction becomes a reality," suggesting that Neon's technology would not be immediately available.

"While films can disrupt our sense of reality," virtual people "or" digital people "will be a reality," he told Mint in late December. "A digital person could expand his role to become part of our everyday life: a virtual news anchor, a virtual receptionist or even a movie star created by the AI."

The three Rs

The neon avatars are powered by two self-developed neon technologies. The first, called CORE R3, stands for "reality, real time and responsive". Therefore, the neons react quickly and lifelike. The second is called SPECTRA and is responsible for intelligence, learning, emotions and memory.

Neon describes CORE R3 as a further development in the "areas of behavior-related neural networks, evolutionary generative intelligence and computational reality". The company said it was "inspired by the rhythmic complexity of nature and trained extensively on how people look, behave and interact". CORE R3's latency, or how long it takes to respond to requests, is less than a few milliseconds, so the neons can respond and respond in real time.

"CORE R3 can computationally create a lifelike reality that is beyond normal perception," Neon said in his FAQ.

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Neon's avatars can take the form of clinicians and other experts. They are also meant as companions, not as digital assistants.

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In the meantime, SPECTRA is still in the development phase. The company announced that it would be introducing the technology at NEONWORLD 2020 later this year. It was not clear when or where that would take place.

It is also working on perfecting its CORE R3 engine.

Privacy and security

Neon's lifelike appearance raises questions about whether the technology can be used for deepfakes or videos that are manipulated to show people doing or saying what they didn't say. Neon said that while an avatar could be based on the appearance of a real person, the technology behind the neons was "fundamentally different from deepfake or other facial animation techniques."

"CORE R3 doesn't manipulate a single scene, video, or sequence," the company said. "Instead, unique neon behaviors and interactions are generated in real time that have never happened before. In this way, CORE R3 creates new realities."

Neon also said that it developed CORE R3 with an ethical view of privacy and trust. It secures data with the "most modern security protocols". The only people who have access to a person's interaction with a neon are that person and the neon. Neons also never share private data without permission, the company said.

"Data protection is at the heart of a neon," it said. "We firmly believe that the wonders of technology mustn't compromise our privacy."

The company plans to release Neon in beta later this year with certain partners around the world. Neons have been said to be licensed or subscribed to by experts in situations such as financial advice, and are expected to one day appear in movies and on the news.

"We have always dreamed of such virtual beings in science fictions and films," Mistry said in a press release. "Neons will integrate into our world and serve as new connections to a better future, a world in which" people are people "and" machines are human ". Http://www.cnet.com/

Neon is showcasing its technology at CES this week. It was said that it was planning to show neons "from many walks of life", including a yoga teacher, a banker, a K-pop star, a news anchor and a model. Visitors to the stand can see live demonstrations, see neons responding in real time, and interact with neons.

Visit CNET to learn more about the show.