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Digital humans are being developed and employed in NZ

2018 has given rise to “digital humans” or virtual assistants that are AI-powered 3D avatars.  And according to a recent report, these digital humans can be found almost everywhere in New Zealand.

Their popularity in the country can be attributed to a pair of world-leading Kiwi start-ups: FaceMe and Soul Machines.

These start-ups have some of the biggest corporations in the country as their clients. The organisations are utilising the digital humans typically as customer service solutions.

Digital humans are built using a combination of 3D video, facial and speech recognition, biometric data and machine learning.

Digital human technology, according to the start-up’s CEO, is most useful when replies need to go beyond a set script.

Digital humans are helpful when it comes to coaching or advisory roles. They are also handy in experiences where emotion actually can influence and where persuasion might be needed.

They can be relied on for customer service inquires that needed empathy.

Digital humans are equipped with machine learning algorithms that can process sense-based data. Therefore, they are better at responding to people in real time.

Sense-based data pertains to what the digital human can see in the person’s facial expressions and hear in the tone of their voice.

For instance, they can detect disappointment with the answer and would try to respond appropriately.

A digital human is being used by the New Zealand Government. Earlier this year, Vai was deployed by the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) at the Auckland Airport.

Vai, which stands for Virtual Assistant Interface, was put to work as a digital biosecurity officer in a trial conducted at Auckland Airport in February.

Vai was a digital kiosk who answered general questions and enquiries made by newly arrived international passengers such as where they needed to go or what they needed to declare.

A mobile version of Vai is one of the scenarios currently being explored by the Ministry, as it is looking to expand Vai’s presence.

The next immediate goal for Vai is to be a liaison across multiple government agencies at the border.

Other agencies the control the border along with MPI are Customs, Immigration New Zealand, and the Ministry of Transport.

MPI is currently in discussions with the other border agencies to investigate if a digital human is the most suitable central interface to use at the border.

No decision has been reached if mobile form is the most suitable for this.

But one thing remains, digital humans are here now and they are ready to serve whether by assisting in the selection of a new mobile phone or informing passenger at the airport.


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