How 'Digital Humans' may change the way we do business

Some businesses are incorporating human-looking artificial intelligence to assist clients.

“Hi, I’m Mia. You may not know this but I was created just a little while ago.”

These are the words of Mia, a digital image with human qualities, like the ability to smile. She works for Dave Marcinkowski, one of the partners at Madera Residential, a real estate company in Texas. Mia’s role is to answer questions from people interested in renting an apartment.

“Most millennials today: They don’t even want to come in the office," Marcinkowski said. "They want to lease online. They want to lease at one in the morning.”

But unlike a human counterpart, Mia is available 24 hours a day. Marcinkowski’s team reviews Mia’s answers once a week and comes up with a plan on how she can handle questions she had been unable to answer. Marcinkowski says she should know another language by the end of the year.

“The really cool thing about Mia: If you turn your camera on, she’s watching you. So if you smile at her, she smiles back," Marcinkowski said.

Madera Residential came across the technology last year during a presentation by the New Zealand based company, Soul Machines.

The company's co-founder Greg Cross, put together a team of neuroscientists, child psychologists, and programmers. Together they built a digital brain, which can be used by businesses. The finished product is an animation that can function on its own and has human characteristics.

“If you’re going to have a world where we spend a lot more of our time interacting with machines, we have this view that machines need to be more like us,” Cross said.

Marcinkowski explains how this makes things easier for clients: “Instead of going into the office, you go directly into the model, you’ve been given a passcode to go directly into the unit, you walk into the unit and there’s an iPad there and there’s Mia.”

His future vision of Mia is one where she is actually walking and can take clients on a tour of an apartment.

“At the same time, she’s watching your face to be able to pick up: Do you like the way this is laid out?” Marcinkowski said.

Soul Machines plans on adding bodies to these animations and enhancing synthetic voices to make them even more human-like.

However, the concept poses an obvious question: will real humans end up losing jobs?

“Personally, do I believe that machines will become our overlords and our masters? No, I don’t.” says Cross.

Both he and Marcinkowski say the future will be about human and AI collaboration. This technology will not take jobs but instead will transform and enhance existing ones.

“We see her (Mia) only growing in size, only growing in use cases, only becoming more valuable to our company and then, really, our industry,” Marcinkowski said.

Cross points out that AI algorithms are being used by companies like Facebook and Amazon.


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