STAR Labs unveiled NEON at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) this week
STAR Labs unveiled NEON at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) this week

How Samsung’s NEON plans to make artificial humans for everyone

  • According to Pranav Mistry, the company has partners already but it doesn’t plan to 'sell' its artificial humans, or NEONs
  • While the company will initially work with businesses and enterprises, it plans to eventually allow consumers to own NEONs as well

Artificial humans are so new that even Pranav Mistry, the man who built Samsung’s new artificial humans, doesn’t know what the business model for it will be. “We’re just a four-five month old venture, so we’re not thinking about the business model in too much detail right now," Mistry, President and CEO of STAR Labs, an advanced research lab owned by Samsung, said.

After teasing it for few weeks, STAR Labs unveiled NEON at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) this week. The company builds artificial humans, which can act as avatars for people, businesses and companies.

According to Mistry, the company has partners already but it doesn’t plan to “sell" its artificial humans, or NEONs. Instead, Mistry says there will be a subscription-like model, that allows companies to hire/license NEONs from STAR Labs.

They will also not be able to customise NEONs to suit any need. “It’s not like you can just change the look of a NEON, or change its features (eyes, nose etc.) in any way you want," Mistry said. Instead, STAR Labs will let them choose from a number of NEONs in its arsenal.

While the company will initially work with businesses and enterprises, it plans to eventually allow consumers to own NEONs as well. “You find a NEON that you think can be a good friend of yours," Mistry said. “The NEON doesn’t know your personality, likes, dislikes etc. Those will be built through your experiences with the NEON, which is where the personal element comes in," he added.

However, in the B2B industry artificial humans are more skill-based. Just like you want employees with particular skill sets, you will be able to choose NEONs in a similar manner. So, a hotel can hire a NEON as a receptionist, using the fact that it can speak myriad languages (including Hindi) to interact with guests.

For running NEONs, STAR Labs uses a platform called CORE R3, which can “computationally create lifelike reality that is beyond normal perception to distinguish," the company explained in a press release. While there is an element of artificial intelligence (AI) involved, Mistry said the company has to overcome the limitations of human-AI interactions too. The limited interactions required for industry will allow them to learn about human interactions and eventually be ready for consumers to buy them, Mistry suggested.

STAR Labs wants NEONs to remain private and about interactions only. They aren’t meant to turn on the lights, give you information from the Internet and other things that voice assistants like Alexa do. A NEON isn’t an interface between the user and the Internet, the company explained in its press release.

The interactions that a user has with a NEON is available only to the user and the NEON itself. Mistry says even the company itself cannot access those interactions.

Further, unlike deepfakes, NEONS do not manipulate existing content. “CORE R3 (the technology platform STAR Labs developed for NEONs) is able to generate content that never existed before," Mistry said. Social networking giant recently banned deepfakes and manipulated media on the platform, this presumably clears NEONs from the rules Facebook created.

Like most advanced technologies, artificial humans are also extremely new right now. Mistry said he expects their adoption to take at least a year, which will give them more time to perfect the artificial humans. The current version of STAR Labs’ NEONs are sort of a beta of what it eventually hopes will be used everywhere.

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