Augmented reality could give us more engaging, more emotionally aware AI agents to interact withARTIE
Algorithms are not known for their emotional intelligence, but in part one of this article I introduced Cogito, an application that analyzes behavioral signals in voice conversations to improve interactions with enterprise customers and monitor mental health patients. Measuring emotional responses and prompting people to increase their energy, be more empathetic or change their speaking pace is an innovative way to make AI more emotional. But there will be many different methods to address the challenge of teaching AI how to communicate naturally and collaborate more effectively.
Emotionally intelligent agents
The Cogito application will undoubtedly help to quantify our emotions, and as more conversations are measured and used to teach the algorithm, the more it will ‘understand’ the nuances of human communication. Quantifying emotional factors like empathy, energy or frustration clearly has its challenges, but with training data that includes all these aspects then a program can look for similar vocal patterns and react based on certain criteria. However, AI that can actively interact with humans in an authentic way is another task entirely. Automated customer service agents are often stilted, frustrating, and even nonsensical, but some are looking to breathe new life into automated customer interaction.
Artie, of Artie’s adventure fame, has taken a different approach to automated agents, using AR to give algorithms a friendly and familiar face. The company’s software allows users to create and share avatars based on celebrities, influencers, and popular fictional characters. These avatars are ‘emotionally aware, world-aware and object-aware through the use of computer vision and sentiment analysis,’ according to co-founder Armando Kirwin, and draw on a much wider range of natural communication than your average chatbot or digital assistant. ‘The average interaction with a digital assistant might be five seconds or less, but because interacting with an avatar is a much more natural experience, we’re able to increase the session time to around five minutes.’
Giving a personality to an AI avatar is a novel way of getting around the problems that machine learning has in unpredictable situations. Establishing a narrative context for each interaction with a character or avatar allows users to interact with a being that has a defined personality, attitude, and way of speaking. ‘If you talk to an Iron Man avatar on social media, he’s not going to talk to you about politics, he’s going to talk to you about his world’ says co-founder Ryan Horrigan. This way, communication is instantly more enjoyable and engaging than it would be with a faceless bot, because the creator ‘would effectively design the context for that given experience’ to give each avatar its own frame of reference to communicate from.
Artie’s creators Kirwin and Horrigan see these avatars as ‘the future of entertainment,’ and they could be onto something considering the rise of artificial social media influencers that are further blurring the line between virtual and physical experience. ‘We see it as more of a two-way interaction than something passive like video’ says Horrigan. With their ‘Instant Avatar’ technology that allows content creators to share avatars in a standard hyperlink, Kirwin and Horrigan are definitively attempting to change how we think about interacting with AI. While most people would imagine the future of AI as robots that walk and talk among us, Kirwin points out that robots are just too expensive, and that cost is not likely to change any time soon. As many people are comfortable in a digital environment and spend vast portions of their time on social media, or even live in a virtual world, AI agents could well be the new, improved face of customer service, interacting emotionally with users on common ground.