Baby X: is she the future of AI?

Baby X: is she the future of AI?

Summary: The next step in artificial intelligence could be a intelligent and emotive computer that is modelled on a physical baby.

TOPICS: New Zealand

"In 2013 artificial intelligence was born," claims the presentation running outside a strange construction, a pod, with a door at each end set up in the foyer of Ted X Auckland. "We were there to film the birth."

Inside, the work of Mark Sagar and the University of Auckland School of Animate Technologies is being demonstrated. As you stand in front of a screen, a baby's face reacts to what you are doing and to your expressions.

Leave her on her own, and she will cry; smile enough and she will laugh. She can also control the lights and sounds in the room.

It's a simple demonstration, but there is a world of work in the background.

Baby X, billed as "a glimpse into the future of human interaction", is modelled on Sagar’s daughter Francesca.

But to claim the birth of artificial intelligence (AI) is a bit rich, isn't it. Perhaps, Sagar agrees.

The classic test of AI is that of mathematician and code-breaker Alan Turing, who in 1950 suggested a computer could be said to "think" if a human could not tell it from a machine while talking to it.

Sagar, who as part of the team at director Peter Jackson's Weta Digital was behind the computer generated faces in films such as King Kong and Avatar, says Baby X is an exploration of emotional interaction through an interactive avatar.

"Turing was more about language," he told ZDNet. "This is looking at the interaction side, exploring how natural you can make the computer. It's expressive and emotional."

In short, an intelligent and emotive computer will be a natural computer.

Baby X is powered by an artificial brain with inputs layered in through an artificial nervous system. Sagar says it is built to be plugged in to other AI systems that may deliver higher level thought.

"It's modelled on how we tick," he says. "We try to make what's driving the model up to date with modern neuroscience."

Sagar describes Baby X as a kitset allowing biological components to be put together as applications.

Applications are as varied as the imagination, from gaming to teaching and from elder care to machine-human interaction.

Topic: New Zealand

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  • The Singularity is near

    Visual intelligence (which previously only animals/humans had), natural language intelligence (which beat the best human players at Jeopardy) and deep learning, situational awareness (self-awareness?), human-like robot frames, plus quantum computers and inexpensive super-computers - all of which exist right now.

    The Singularity is within reach - all we need to do is join the parts together. BTW, you gotta watch the first link - it is mind blowing!
    • Thanks, doberman8!

      Thank you for the fascinating links! AI has always been my favorite subject in the world of computing and robotics, and it is great to witness the synergy between computing, gaming, and mechanics.
  • The Singularity

    Idea as advanced by Ray Kurzweil, is all about convergence. It is about multiple lines of research and development across a range of disciplines and technologies converging together and about Moore's law driving exponential improvements in those technologies. You can debate the validity of his vision of where that will lead. You cannot debate that multiple lines of research are moving forward and rapidly changing our ideas about AI enhanced machines. Taken by itself, baby x, is more a curiosity than a significant leap forward. The significance comes when taken in context with other developments in robotics, AI, vision systems, pattern recognition, natural speech, language translation, artificial skin, and a thousand other developments that are simultaneously moving forward.
  • Quotes from A.D. 2050:

    "My favorite teacher was the Noital X3, Model Q35, that I had in the fifth grade."

    "It has been such a comfort to have the WeKare2 (w/BodyTemp appendages) by my bed to hold my hand during my final days."
  • Sounds like the plot from a movie, Resident Evil...

    hopefully Baby X won't turn out to be a Red Queen. Keep your antivirus handy!
  • Oh great - a virtual baby

    that you care for years, feed it, change it, watch it "grow" on the computer, then at 21 find it can't get a job (it's just a virtual adult at that point), and ends up "living" at home for years to come.

    You're right, this IS as real as it gets.
    William Farrel