FaceMe is now the second New Zealand company to release a humanoid chatbot that can speak the AI-generated text, all while reacting to the customer’s every expression, and displaying their own emotions.
Late last year New Zealand company Soul Machines put a human face to chatbots, with a digitally-created visage christened AVA – Autodesk Virtual Agent.
A robot with a backstory
AVA could not only mouth the text produced by the underlying chatbot but could also, Soul Machines claimed, understand and react to body language and facial expressions.
With a 650-word backstory, AVA is “as close to the human experience as possible” – a robot that “makes mistakes, [but is] open to constructive criticism and will never blame the customer.”
At the time, Soul Machines had just sold their humanoid chatbot to US software company Autodesk. Since then, they’ve signed up UK bank Natwest and global car maker Daimler as customers.
But Soul Machines is no longer the only New Zealand company producing this cutting edge technology, however. A rival offering, from Auckland company FaceMe, is on show for anyone travelling through Auckland’s international airport.
Her name is Vai and she’s been deployed by the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) to answer incoming travellers’ questions about New Zealand’s biosecurity laws.
FaceMe CEO Danny Tomsett says the company’s digital employees, like Vai, learn from every past interaction to sharpen and perfect their skills.
“Vai is highly conversational and has been trained through every interaction, as well as data available on the website,” he said. “She embodies the AI experience with human-like qualities, including a friendly personality and emotional understanding.”
MPI’s detection technology manager, Brett Hickman, said Vai had been deployed to take some of the load off MPI officers during peak times. She’s only on trial at present, but if she passes muster she will become a permanent feature.
According to Tomsett, “digital employees offer an empathetic, human-like interface that provides answers, handles requests, supplies information or simply connects clients to a key person across any and all channels, day or night.”
FaceMe also has another humanoid chatbot, dubbed Josie (who looks remarkably like Vai with a different hairstyle).
Josie works for New Zealand’s ASB Bank where, according to FaceMe, she is currently serving her apprenticeship helping SME business owners with setting up a business.
“SME business owners, including those who aren’t ASB customers, will be able to interact with Josie in Auckland business hubs during her training,” the bank said.
“This will develop Josie’s understanding of the customer needs so that longer-term she’ll be armed with the knowledge she needs to deliver customised assistance to businesses.”