This Creepy, Interactive AI Baby Is Programmed to Be as Human as Possible

Monday, 11 September 2017 - 10:31AM
Weird Science
Technology
Artificial Intelligence
Monday, 11 September 2017 - 10:31AM
This Creepy, Interactive AI Baby Is Programmed to Be as Human as Possible
Image credit: Soul Machines
The idea of robots becoming people is ingrained in popular culture, from Bicentennial Man to A.I.: Artificial Intelligence, to more recent movies like Ex Machina and Blade Runner 2049. It seems we're fascinated with the Pinocchio-style story of a computer that develops human emotions, becoming human in its own right. But for the most part, this still seems like sci-fi—computers can simulate emotions, but to make something that can actually feel is beyond our current programming capabilities.

A company called Soul Machines intends to overcome this hurdle by creating artificial intelligence programs that not only sound and look human, but also experience joy and satisfaction from learning in the same way that a human does. For some reason, this also means creating a creepy baby-faced avatar for the AI when it's interacting with humans:



BabyX may look like a PlayStation 3-era human facial render, but it's very complex behind the scenes. The AI has been built to recognize movement, human faces, and other external visual stimuli so that it can react and engage in a human-like manner. BabyX gurgles like a real baby when it sees someone smile, will follow an object around the room, and can even be taught to mimic movements by drawing with its fingertip.

What's really interesting is what's going on under the surface. Soul Machines' AI creations are wired up like the human brain, with pleasure centers that are flooded with a digital equivalent of endorphins when they see something pleasing. Company owner, Mark Sagar, describes the system through which BabyX observes and reacts to the world as a "central nervous system for human computing", and it's through this approach that Sagar hopes to be able to create artificial intelligences that think and feel more like humans than our current calculation-based approach to AI.

This also allows Soul Machines' AIs to be able to crack jokes, albeit bad ones that feel more disturbing than genuinely entertaining.



Soul Machines' approach to AI flies in the face of what many tech experts, including Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking, advise with regards to developing this technology. With Musk constantly warning that careless AI development will lead to a robot uprising, there's a general sense that allowing computers to think too much like humans means running the risk of them becoming afraid of being turned off2001 showed us how far one AI would go to avoid its own shutdown. 

One thing is for certain—over the next few years, the world of Blade Runner is going to start seeming less and less far-fetched.
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