An AI So Realistic, It Might Even Be Dateable
Minori Takechi, founder of Vinclu Inc, believes that the future involves artificial companions that can display emotional depth and range
“My vision is a world where people can share their daily lives with their favorite fictional characters,” says 29-year old inventor Minori Takechi. “We live in a time when all kinds of robots start making their way into our homes. But much of what you see now is inorganic and mechanical, and I doubt people will want to communicate with something like that.”
As the founder of Vinclu Inc., Takechi is a critic of voice assistants such as Siri or Alexa, who have the capacity to get sassy, but fall flat when it comes to actually displaying any sort of emotional depth or range. The aptitude to build relationships is what he argues is the critical factor for mass adoption, which largely comes with the territory of a visual form factor, alongside the ability to interact on a deeper level than what current consumer-grade voice assistants have to offer.
The Tokyo-based startup’s creation then, dubbed Gatebox – a hologram avatar projection encased in a cylindrical glass shell the size of a coffee maker – serves to address these concerns for social behaviors. Having raised roughly 200 million yen from a lineup of investors which include the likes of Primal Capital and Incubate Fund. Line Corp. (Japan’s largest instant messaging company), the push for a friendly (and even romantic) AI makes befriending and dating robots one step closer to reality.
Still, the company is young, and is currently limited to only a handful of scripted interactions; far from the virtual girl/boyfriend Takechi imagines. To fulfill his desire for something more ‘human,’ the startup CEO hopes to marry his investors’ AI platform with Gatebox’s hardware, which will reportedly allow the companies to ‘develop a new kind of post-display, post-touch agent capable of making the lives of the users richer and more fun’ according to Line Corp. CMO/CSO Jun Musuda.
With an odd ‘kawaii’ twist, the Japanese word for ‘cute,’ Takechi believes he can mitigate current holes in AI and voice recognition not by improving upon what’s faulty or missing – a major technical undertaking in and of itself – but by embracing mistakes. In presenting failures to interpret intent in an apologetic, endearing manner, Gatebox hopes to simply charm users into quickly forgiving their virtual friends/significant others, and perhaps try again using different words. The ultimate goal is of course to move away from a disembodied genie trapped in a sleek Amazonian cylinder, and into something more lifelike, engaging, and therefore more integrated into our daily lives.
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Deena Varshavskaya is the founder and CEO of Wanelo (“wah-nee-lo,” from Want, Need, Love), the world’s largest mall, curated by people. Millions of shoppers use Wanelo to discover and buy from over 20 million products and over 350,000 stores, which include big brands and independent boutiques and sellers you’ve never heard of, all in one place on your phone. Deena started Wanelo after being frustrated with shopping in traditional malls. Her personal style didn’t fit a simple category, and she wanted to shop in more unique places. She decided to create a social network that would make it easy to discover amazing stores and products from anywhere online. Deena worked on Wanelo for more than two years using her personal savings to build the site and attract its first users. In 2011, she moved to San Francisco, and she launched Wanelo in 2012 after receiving 40 investor rejections before finally closing her first round of funding. Deena has been named one of the "Most Intriguing Entrepreneurs" for two years in a row by Goldman Sachs and was recognized by Forbes as one of "The Power Women Who Are Reinventing The Way You Shop Fashion Online." She has also been highlighted in Fast Company’s "Most Creative People in Business" list and is named as one of 15 “up-and-comers to keep an eye on” in Vanity Fair’s "Next Establishment" list. The National Retail Federation recently recognized Deena as an “Influencer” reshaping the retail industry. Originally from Siberia, Deena moved to the U.S. at the age of 16 and dropped out of Cornell University two classes short of graduating. She currently lives in San Francisco and can be followed on Wanelo, Twitter and Instagram at @siberianfruit. Check out her exclusive interview with PSFK & HP/HP Matter here!
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