AI and machine learning have become the buzzwords of today’s tech world, however, with a few exceptions, people perceive them as disembodied voices like Siri or even impersonal bits and bytes that function behind computer screens as a silent miracle. Samsung and its subsidiary Star Labs showed off AI at CES 2020 earlier this year which was both relatable but also eerily too human. As if it wasn’t enough to see them on wall-mounted screens standing at the length of their arms, it seems that Samsung is playing with the concept of soon adding NEON to smartphones.
The idea behind Samsung NEON is just as bewildering as it sounds. These artificial humans are not made Siri, Cortana, or Alexa made digital flesh. Instead, they are supposed to be virtual versions of humans, using AI in a human-like way to express emotions and responses. They are more like virtual friends instead of being virtual assistants.
A few weeks later, the COVID-19 pandemic that erupted may have thrown a wrench into Samsung’s plans to show the kind of commodity that NEON needs to be. Although the idea of a virtual partner may be attractive to some, having those on a single wall in your house confined to a life-sized screen destroys the illusion it seeks to deliver. For better or worse in the future, Samsung seems to want you to take your NEON with you.
On Twitter, the president and CEO of Star Labs, Pranav Mistry, whose list of accomplishments includes the Samsung Galaxy Gear and Samsung Beyond 3D capture system, revealed that NEON was already running on his device. We can only assume, given his employer, that it is some high-end Samsung Galaxy phone. He also states that next month, the public will be able to see this combination.
Aside from being a showcase of Samsung’s AI chops, that still doesn’t exactly explain what NEON is for. Granted, on a smartphone, it may have more practical value than on a wall, but it will probably be only a matter of time before the uncanny valley makes people uncomfortable with their digital counterparts.