Dressing Up Various Data with Avatars That Speak in "Mascot Avatar Meetings": MITSUO ISO
January 21, 2015
Having presented a prologue essay in the previous installment, animator and screenwriter Mitsuo Iso now offers Part 1 of his three main essays on the theme of "I imagined the year A.D. 2036." Iso imagined a new style of meeting that uses avatar characters.
Giving data a soul to create avatar characters
When you look at Siri (the talking assistant on the iPhone) and Pepper (a robot product by SoftBank), both of which came out in the past few years, it seems as though something like AI has already been achieved. But when 2036 comes, I would like it to be even more as if we're living in an SF story.
For example, there is the concept of an "artificial personality." It would be nice if we had the technology to recreate an articulate personality on a computer—or if we could abstract a portion of a human personality as a program and have it perform work for us. How this would differ slightly from existing AI is that it would use machine learning.
The AI that we have now is like a baby in the crib that its parents provided for it, a "baby" that just tries to work according to pre-defined computations. However, what I have in mind here is a technology that combines machine learning with statistical machine translation. Well, that is the scenario that I thought up, but if we continue like this, then this discussion will end up as nothing but a technical explanation, so let's omit the rest of the details. (Laughs)
What is interesting about machine learning in this context is that it is like a child raised by hands-off parents: The parents (read "humans"), who are not overprotective, raise the child to act by itself. I believe this would mean the process of letting data walk on their own and raising them to have a personality or be a character.
For instance, let's suppose that, in 2036, an avatar-character service that uses this technology has been launched. This dream technology comes equipped with an engine that extracts meaning from something like today's Big Data, as well as the linguistic capacity to convey that meaning. Once you add on the latter function, the data themselves will start to speak with eloquence. For the external appearance, the technology would automatically generate something like a mascot character (laughs) that bears some relation to the data being represented.
So, for instance, you might apply an avatar character on top of the "soul" of some data and have it attend a meeting. You might hear somebody say something interesting in a meeting and investigate who they are—and it ends up being Mr. Big Data. Something like that might be possible.
Meeting attendees: a child, a cat, and Big Data
Wouldn't it be great if we included specialist knowledge and prior information as part of the personality data? If you conceive of humans as data, you could apply avatars to them, too. You could dress up a child with an avatar character installed with specialist knowledge and just use the child's rich imagination as a resource.
On another note, if you tried applying an avatar to the self that cannot be verbalized—that is, to your own unconscious thoughts, which I will discuss later—and had this avatar speak for you, perhaps it would express the images in your mind freely, without being bound by the constraints of language. Or it would be an interesting experience if you saved yourself digitally when you were young and then the two of you could converse with one another.
So maybe you look up the attendees of an open-participation avatar meeting, and it's a child, Big Data, you when you were young—and a cat. (Laughs) Wouldn't you want to watch a meeting attended by intelligences other than humans?
What's strange is that I have the feeling that, if we could turn things and data into characters and have them converse with one another, our understanding would grow exponentially. As a people, the Japanese have always been good at taking something and turning it into a character. It's obvious that the mascot characters that Japanese localities and organizations have been adopting in recent years are the very definition of anthropomorphization—but spirits and monsters like mononoke and yōkai, which have been part of Japanese culture from antiquity, are exactly the same process in action.
In the workplace of 2036, perhaps the anthropomorphizing (read "turning things into characters") sensibility of the Japanese will spur on innovation.