13 January 2020
After about a couple of weeks of teasers, speculations, and hype, Samsung has officially unveiled its ambitious project NEON at CES 2020. Samsung NEON is indeed an artificial human but not necessarily the way you might have anticipated. It looks and feels like a real human but is essentially a virtual avatar that can be interacted with via a display. If you were thinking of it to be some kind of a robot, we can understand your disappointment.
Samsung is describing NEON as "a computationally created virtual being that looks and behaves like a real human, with the ability to show emotions and intelligence". It is the latter part that makes NEONs intriguing and sets them apart from any other form of artificial intelligence that you might have used or heard of. And while you may think that they are just another virtual assistant like Apple Siri and Google Assistant, Samsung's subsidiary STAR Labs is quick to clarify that they not.
NEONs are not meant to help you get answers to questions like how tall is the Eiffel Tower, check the weather report or play your favorite show/music. These are said to be your companion which can have meaningful conversations with you. They will be able to understand your emotions and also their own emotions and feelings. They will be able to make memories, learn new skills, and learn from conversations and experiences to get better just like humans do.
Each Neon is also said to have a unique personality. Samsung is hoping that there will be a day when they will be able to do so much more. It is seeing them being teachers, financial advisers, health-care providers, concierges, actors, spokespeople, and TV anchors in the future.
Pranav Mistry, CEO of Star Labs said,
"Neon is like a new kind of life. There are millions of species on our planet and we hope to add one more. Neons are not AI assistants. Neons are more like us, an independent but virtual living being, who can show emotions and learn from experiences. Unlike AI assistants, Neons do not know it all, and they are not an interface to the Internet to ask for weather updates or to play your favorite music."
NEONs will be created using CORE R3, a proprietary technology platform, where "R3" stands for Reality, Realtime, and Responsive. It is complemented by what Samsung calls SPECTRA. It is described as the "spectrum of Intelligence, Learning, Emotions and Memory" suggesting that it is responsible for making these artificial humans aware.
There is no doubt that Samsung is marketing NEON as the next big thing. It is hopeful that people will be able to license or subscribe for expert help but we will have to wait for the real-world demonstration to see how many of these claims actually work as promised. It will reveal more details at a dedicated event called NEONWORLD 2020 but date and venue for the same is yet to be announced.