‘Digital Einstein’ Virtual Human Celebrates Nobel Prize Centennial
Albert Einstein earned the Nobel Prize in physics 100 years ago, but you can congratulate him, or at least a simulacrum, thanks to virtual human developer UneeQ. The digital version of Einstein is part of UneeQ’s new Companions line of virtual humans for what the company hopes will be meaningful interactions through the combination of realistic computer-generated images and conversational AI.
Digital Einstein is built on UneeQ’s virtual human platform to mimic the scientist’s likeness and mannerisms visually and in conversation, pairing the image with an AI that can converse about Einstein’s life and research. The virtual human speaks with the original’s recognizable voice and accent and can converse by text or voice in casual language. The virtual human is limited to the topic of Einstein and his work, including a quiz, but can also discuss how the digital version was created. Einstein’s likeness and work were provided by The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and licensing firm BEN Group, whose subsidiary promotes Einstein’s scientific and philanthropic works. UneeQ funneled all of the video, voice records, and other data through its platform to produce Digital Einstein.
“Albert Einstein, a founding father of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, is considered one of the greatest scientists of all time. His work is the basis for our understanding of the universe and its development,” Hebrew University of Jerusalem vice president and director general Yishai Fraenkel said in a statement. “We were delighted to work with UneeQ on this groundbreaking project, knowing that Einstein’s legacy continues to educate and guide the minds of tomorrow through interactive AI technology.”
Einstein’s is one of UneeQ’s new Companions line of virtual humans. ‘Digital Human Sophie” is debuting alongside Einstein without a famous face but with a lot more variety in conversation. The Companions are aimed at supporting people’s mental health by offering realistic interactions to those who are feeling isolated. Loneliness has become an even bigger problem as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and UneeQ sees its virtual humans as a way to ease some of that pressure. The company is quick to say that virtual humans don’t replace human connections, but they do point to studies showing that talking to digital people relieves some of the worries people may have about being judged or shamed. They, therefore, feel more comfortable opening up to the human-seeming faces and voices in front of them than they might to a flesh-and-blood person.
“Mental health and companionship are long-standing problems facing our society today, of which COVID-19 has significantly exacerbated,” UneeQ CEO Danny Tomsett said.”One of UneeQ’s core values is ‘Tech for Good’, and we are actively seeking ways to apply our innovative solutions to that cause. As part of our new Companions series, Digital Einstein, among other digital humans, can communicate with people in a way that comes most naturally – using conversation, human expressions, and emotional responses to best provide daily interactions that we hope make a difference in people’s lives.”
Virtual humans can say or do nearly anything. Mental health support makes as much sense as the virtual influencers and corporate avatars being built by Offbeat Media Group. UneeQ and other platforms are finding a lot of intriguing ways to apply the mix of visual and voice AI. CoCo Hub has introduced virtual influencers capable of writing pop songs, while Nestle Toll House launched virtual human “cookie coach” Ruth in February. Closer to the Companions idea, the virtual humans developed by Virti are training doctors in communication and empathy. As the technology improves thanks to advances like MetaHuman Creator’s ultrarealistic visuals and the synthetic voices from Replica Studios, more creative approaches are likely to pop up all the time. As the analog version of Einstein himself said in a 1929 interview, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”