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Friday, March 9, 2012


Kara's a robot an android being assembled that accidentally comes "alive" during the process - a problem for company building her...

The following video is a prototype running on a PlayStation 3.

This video was developed by the French company Quantic Dream, the makers of a game called Heavy Rain.  Heavy Rain is a game where you sort of "take over" the characters in the game.  Its a detective game and various investigators explore different clues in the case.

What's important with this video is that Kara is a creation of Quantic Dream and not a real person.  She's just a 3D model rendered in real time on a PlayStation/3.  The details of the her motion and facial expressions are incredibly detailed for a game console.

Yet you cannot help feeling her joy as the machines release her to walk about for the first time on her own - or her shock and horror at the potential of being disassembled.

David Cage from Quantic Dream discusses how this demo was created.

Imagine this technology combined with the virtual voice capabilities I discussed in "The Future of Music".  Though Kara uses the voice and motion capture of actress Valorie Curry there would be no need of the actor or actress's voice in the future.

From the perspective of someone who has spent decades with computers the progress here is not remarkable.  3D graphics were used in movies since the 1960's (Stanley Kubrick's 2001 uses them for certain aspects of HAL and various space flight control shots).

While the results are quite remarkable as demonstrated by KARA the progress over the decades has been only "steady" - following Moore's law to create faster and faster computers.  Graphics programming has progressed steadily as well: I recall Unix conferences from the 1970's were many of today's graphic effect pioneers showed work that they had developed in the area of 3D rendering that was just beginning to make its way into movies.

What is remarkable is the effect that KARA has on consumers and its potential in marketing.

KARA is not a person - so she has the conscience of the corporation that builds her - not of a real person.

People have been hawking products for millenia - but there is always a real person there.  Your mind (based on the Kahneman's System 1/System 2) is designed and built to interpret the action of the hawker - you can decide: Is this person lying? Is this person telling the truth?

But KARA can be programmed to deceive you - for example by speaking a lie while giving off facial expressions, vocal intonations and body language cues of a truth teller.

Your mind is not designed to analyze that kind of deception - this type of deception has not existed with the global "perception" of humanity until now.

Based on knowledge the computer, phone or gaming console has about you KARA can act differently.  Is a young male playing?  Then she can offer a suggestive walk or wink.  A female? She's now your comrade sharing your problems with you.  So people in the same household will perceive what KARA has to sell differently - with different emotions and different consequences.

And this is remarkable.

As remarkable as the invention of the printing press was I think that the delivery of "retina" displays and powerful 3D-capable computers to the masses is far more remarkable.

A printed document is static - it captures the ideas the author had at the moment they were written down.  The printed words represents his or her best efforts to persuade or convince.  But if I read a printed book and then hand it over to you no matter what you will see what I saw.

The same words, the same images.

Though you will probably draw different conclusions about what you have read there can be no argument about what we both saw and read.

No longer.

My iPhone has GPS, accelerometers, and other goodies - so it can probably make a good guess who is holding it.  Mrs. Wolf is shorter than I am so the average height she holds it at will be lower.

With SIRI-like technology it can tell things about the voice it hears - male or female.

It knows about our household because we have various accounts in different names, different browser histories, and so on

So if KARA or one of her friends appears on the iPhone to persuade us to do something it will know very much about us, who we are, what we do, what arguments we might be susceptible to.

This is not like a book.

From the perspective of marketing printing is really quite dead.

It cannot possibly deliver this level of knowledge nor persuasiveness that KARA can.

You navigate on your phone and look at the wonderful, but expensive dress, or toy, or whatever.  But after a while you navigate away because its too expensive, there's not place to put it, whatever.

KARA appears.

And, because she knows about you tries to persuade you to buy anyway.

She can wink, she can cry, she can nod... go ahead, buy it anyway...

Imagine the local dog pound - the KARA-like dogs will persuade your child by crying, telling them how badly they need a home, how horrible their lives were before.

Will you or worse, your child, be able to resist?

If you bring the dog home will it really be better off or did you just buy it because the emotions of the video told you too against you better judgement?

The technology to create and use KARA's to manipulate your life is here today.  Its only a matter of months before these predictions start to come true.

KARA and her dog will be on every device in your home - your child's gamebox, your phone, your TV...

Pleading - begging - dancing - winking...

Are you ready?

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