Don’t Get Freaked Out

December 29, 2013 | By | Add a Comment

Don’t get freaked out by this, but Teddy Ruxpin is back — on steroids.
 
We’ve spent a lot of time on this blog talking about virtual people, artificial intelligence, and the like. As you know, Friend Me is all about illicit romance with an AI (artificial intelligence) entity. You owe it to yourself to see the prototype of the Supertoy Robotics talking Teddy Bear.
 
As you watch this, remember that the only human present is Esther, who is eight years old. The bear is actually doing his own talking. No man-behind-the-curtain, no hidden microphones… just an AI Teddy Bear.
 

 
The robot’s hardware is simple: just an audio in/out interface and a motor for mouth animation. Teddy connects by a standard audio plug to an iPhone 4+, iPad2+, iPod touch 3G+, or Android (2.3 +) smartphone or device. It’s sitting right inside his chest. You could put it together at home.
 
On one hand, Teddy is like the Malicia chatbot (a “chattering robot”) on this website. I worked on Malicia myself. She was not difficult to put together. Just for fun, if you talk to her, ask her what religion she is.
 
The two guys at Supertoy Robotics started with a chatbot called Jeannie, who was designed for iPhone, iPad and Androids. But this “bear” is far advanced beyond what can be done with a chatbot.
 
In Friend Me, both Rachel and Scott Douglas interact with an AI entity. They get to where they can’t tell the difference between real and unreal. I use “unreal” in the sense of “not a real person.” Because AI (artificial intelligence) is real enough. It remains primitive because it is not sentient. That is, it is not self-aware. Today’s AI, however, is good enough to fool anyone.
 
Now, for an exercise, let’s put a few things together. You’ve seen the great computer animations that are being used in movies today. You can’t tell (on the screen) what’s real and what isn’t. Arnold Schwarzenegger and others have even had “body doubles” of themselves made of computer-generated avatars. Useful for stunts and things where they don’t want the human actor risking anything.
 
Combine those images (which we have right now… current technology), with the conversational abilities of this Teddy Bear and what have you got? I guarantee that if you met the artificial person online, you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.
 
Now. . . do you really think no one is already doing this?
 
When I first proposed Friend Me to an editor from Random House, she told me she wanted the story, but that she would cast it as science fiction.
 
Guess what? It’s not SCI-FI. It’s here today.

What do you think? Freaked out?

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Category: AI, Artificial Intelligence, Books, Chatbots, Friend Me, Robots, Technology, virtual, Writing

About the Author ()

Suspense fiction writer. I have a wife whom I love, and five children ranging from college to middle age. I love each one. I've worked a day job as a senior software developer since 1999. Previous to that I spent nearly thirty years as a foreign missionary in Vietnam and China. Yes, I speak Chinese as a second language :-)

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