Start-up watch: Kiwi- tech outfit Soul Machines has put a face on chatbots with the rollout of its first virtual assistant, Nadia, with Cate Blanchett working the voice. And behind Nadia is Baby X (see video), an emotionally intelligent virtual agent able to respond to a human being via more lifelike facial expressions and real time verbal communications.
Baby X has been in development for around five years and Nadia represents the tech’s first commercial launch over at Australia’s National Disability Insurance Scheme. Her role is to provide people with disability with information about the NDIS, initially answering the most common questions people have about the scheme. She will speak, write and chat 24/7 online via the myplace portal.
However, expect Nadia to grow with the job as the more human interactions she racks up, the more her knowledge bank expands. Soul Machines says she will eventually develop the capacity to provide detailed responses to a wide range of queries.
“Nadia will start as a trainee,” the start-up explains. “It will take 12 months and a great deal of interactions with NDIS stakeholders for Nadia to become fully operational.”
At the tailend of last year, the company raised $7.5 million in financing round led by Horizons Ventures with Iconiq Capital. “[Soul Machines’] work on Baby X is leading the way in the development of a completely new interaction model between humans and machines,” says Phil Chen of Horizons Ventures. “With the rapid acceleration of intelligent assistants and productivity applications using deep learning techniques, “[Soul Machine] provides an emotional and social reasoning platform to existing and developing intelligence in the AI industry.”