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Meet the Future: BabyX, Virtual Infant That is Eerily Humanlike

This digital creation by former Hollywood special effects guru Mark Sagar and his start-up Soul Machines is way more than a simple AI simulation. The development of this avatar took almost five years and is based on an incredibly accurate model of the human face and nervous system created by software engineers and neurophysiologists.

BabyX was based on images of Sagar’s daughter at 18 months and this digital baby girl looks impossibly human-like. It can smile, frown and track the movement of the person in front of a computer screen.

For those developing such virtual agents, one of the most difficult problems is to minimize the uncanny valley effect to make their creations as lifelike as possible. Sagar’s company, working at the University of Auckland in New Zealand is pioneering the field.

"Since my 20s, I’ve had these thoughts of can a computer become intelligent, can it have consciousness, burning in my mind. We want to build a system that not only learns for itself but that is motivated to learn and to interact with the world. And so I set out with this crazy goal of trying to build a computational model of human consciousness," Sagar told Bloomberg.

BabyX consists of several layers imitating facial bones and facial musculature. But it also has a detailed human brain model simulating its inner neural and chemical process as well as a memory formation mechanism. Its emotional intelligence based on machine learning allows it to express emotions with voice and recognize human emotions via a camera and mimic them.

"They are emotionally responsive. They can not only understand people’s emotions but also express their feelings, like real humans do," Soul Machines chief business officer Greg Cross told RBK.

The virtual baby can also answer questions and play. In its latest version, BabyX has a full body that sits in a chair.

Last year, Soul Machines attracted a $7.5 million investment from Hong Kong-based artificial intelligence and virtual reality investor, Horizon Ventures.

The company has already launched its first commercial product based on the BabyX technology. It is called Nadia, a pretty woman with brown hair and Cate Blanchett’s voice. It can speak, read and chat online and will be used by the Australian National Disability Insurance Scheme to help disabled people interact with the company’s services.

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