Microsoft has released a new full-duplex chatbot in Japan that takes digital assistants to a whole new level (assuming it works at least). The new chatbot features a new AI called “Rinna”, who can interact with your everyday life. By interact, I mean HAL 9000 (“I’m sorry Dave, I can’t do that”) level of interact, as it can see and respond to your environment, including the ability to identify things as you walk by and share opinions or thoughts with the user as it happens.
The best way to describe it is for anime fans who have experience with series like Sword Art Online and the little digital (AI) adopted daughter (Yui) of the main two characters that follow them around on their shoulders (whose character can be compared to similar characters in many other series). Only instead, this is just your smartphone hanging out in your chest pocket (mmm, feel that radiation).
Rinna can see the world around you as you walk around, and is able to listen in on everything as well. She (Rinna) can then chat with you about various things like signs, people, places and more. It uses an “Empathy Vision Model” that combines image recognition with emotional responses.
The whole point of keeping your phone in your chest pocket is so that the camera can stick out the top with a view of everything around you. Rinna will process everything in real-time and comment on things she sees. So if you are looking for something specific for lunch, she might be able to help you find it. It’s like having a friend that follows you everywhere to interact with you on daily experiences vs a plain assistant that just manages your schedule and messaging (or for Japan, a new digital girlfriend).
“A user can hold their smartphone in their hand or place it in a breast pocket while walking around. With the camera switched on, Rinna can see the same scenery, people, and objects as the user and it talk about all that with the user,” — Microsoft Japan President Takuya Hirano
Take a look at the following video that Microsoft put together, detailing some of the things (real and conceptual) they feel the AI can help the user with. The video has a comedic value to it, giving a fun demonstration to help prevent the viewer from having any thoughts about HAL 9000 or Skynet. You might even find yourself softly snicker once or twice.
Microsoft is still working on the technology behind the app, so there is no release date or estimations of such, for when it will launch to the world just yet. I am sure they will eventually merge the technology in one form or another with other products such as Cortana. Hopefully, the public doesn’t find the chatbot becoming racial like one of their previous/recent AI chatbot attempts on Twitter that had to be shut down due to inappropriate comments and opinions it was offering users. One thing’s for sure; no matter how you feel about it, good or bad, this was coming to our future if we liked it or not. Just like the movies have always predicted. This is just the beginning.