Soul Machines gives chatbots a human makeover

Soul Machines is remaking the virtual customer service industry with digital people.

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Soul Machines gives chatbots a human makeover


Future. Soul Machines is remaking the virtual customer service industry, creating digital people that brands can use to enhance people’s online experience. While Soul Machines is focusing right now on its B2B capabilities, the company envisions a world where companies employ automated, digital people for their work in the metaverse… and everyone has an independent CGI replica that can go to work in virtual spaces — while the real you relaxes in the real world.

Ghost in the shell
A New Zealand-based startup wants you to feel like you’re actually being helped by a human when online.

  • Digital-people creator Soul Machines, which was founded by Academy Award winner and VFX wizard Mark Sagar (Avatar, King Kong) and former Microsoft New Zealand Managing Director Greg Cross, recently raised a $70 million Series B.
  • The company uses “CGI, AI and natural language processing to create lifelike digital people who can interact with humans in real time.”
  • The funds will be used to continue developing the company’s Digital Brain tech, which uses “cognitive modeling” to help the digital people better understand human emotions — mostly through facial expressions and vocal intonations.
    • Soul Machines’ current digital roster is still pretty scripted.

The company’s current goal is to help create better brand experiences as retail and health become more digital. It’s already being used by brands like Nestlé Toll House (digital person named Ruth) and organizations like the World Health Organization (digital person named Florence) to help people navigate their websites and answer FAQs.

The Great Digitalization
Customers seem to like Soul Machines. One of its digital people, Yumi, led to “a 4.6x increase in conversion rate [and] a 2.3% increase in customer satisfaction” for skincare company SK II.

But this is just the start for Soul Machines. “What drives us as a company,” Cross notes, “is to think about how do we imagine that human interaction with all of the digital worlds of the future?”

Soul Machines is already making digital replicas of real people, such as L.A. Lakers player Carmelo Anthony, for the 2019 episode of YouTube’s The Age of A.I. Cross says the company already has prototypes of digital doubles that can interact with one another. Maybe we won’t need fake avatars in the metaverse… just duplicates of ourselves.

David Vendrell

Born and raised a stone’s-throw away from the Everglades, David left the Florida swamp for the California desert. Over-caffeinated, he stares at his computer too long either writing the TFP newsletter or screenplays. He is repped by Anonymous Content.


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