If there’s one thing out there Elon Musk is truly afraid of, its Artificial Intelligence (AI) who Musk feels rogue robots could essentially lead to World War 3. Then of course there was that one episode of Black Mirror “Be Right Back” where Martha who’s boyfriend Ash gets killed in a car accident. She then resorts to a technology service provider who creates a AI version of Ash. Martha could interact with it just like any other ordinary person. Now I’m not all for spoilers but you probably should just check that episode to see what happens next.
Fast forward to 2017, Imagine my thrill when a company called ObEN contacts us, and they specialize in creating a digital avatars of famous people and even yourself!
ObEN is an artificial intelligence company that creates complete virtual identities for consumers and celebrities in the emerging digital world. ObEN provides full-stack artificial intelligence technology to builds a person’s virtual copy that looks, sounds and behaves like its human counterpart.
ObEN has so far raised nearly $13 million including a $5 million in strategic investment from Tencent back in July this year.
Arabian Gazette (AG) had an interaction with Nikhil Jain, Co-Founder and CEO of ObEN to find out about the company, AI, digital avatar, how they use Blockchain in AI, their projects in pipeline and more.
ObEN is into AI and Digital Avatar. Where does Blockchain fit in the scope?
Nikhil: ObEN’s artificial intelligence enables every person to simply create their Personal AI, an intelligent avatar that looks and talks like the individual, and can do things on their behalf. Project PAI is a Blockchain protocol for intelligent avatars in the AI economy. ObEN has signed on as a core adoption partner of Project PAI. Project PAI is enabling peer-to-peer AI on blockchain, and ObEN is providing it’s AI technology to its efforts.
The PAI blockchain enables users to create, authenticate, manage, operate and own their Personal AI (PAI). This is primarily important in the celebrity integration through joint ventures like AI Stars that gives celebrities a new way to get closer than ever to their fans.
Blockchain and smart contracts also enables peer-to-peer interaction and fair compensation to the owner of PAI, which current centralized platforms do not offer.
Have you tied up or worked on any Dubai/UAE government projects? If yes, can you share details?
Nikhil: We are currently in discussion with organizations that work closely with the Dubai government on their blockchain initiatives. We are not able to disclose the details of the projects at this point.
Can you tell us a few business applications or real life scenarios where specifically your AI and Blockchain will be of help?
Nikhil: Any way consumers use AI (Siri, Alexa, etc) and many more applications are available with the PAI they create. From reading bedtime stories to their kids while away traveling, to sitting in on a meeting in China, to having an AR chat with your favorite celebrity, to talking to a virtual doctor for post-discharge follow up, PAI can make life easier, more entertaining and more manageable for those who make their personal copy.
What’s next for ObEN after digital avatar? What projects are in the pipeline?
Nikhil: We believe that every person in the world will soon have their own personal avatar, or PAI and use it for different purposes.
We are working with entertainment leaders to create the PAI for celebrities. ObEN has formed AI Stars, a joint venture with SM Entertainment to create PAI for their celebrity portfolio. ObEN will replicate the AI Stars model in US, China, India and other key markets, creating joint ventures with local partners. Together, we will make a variety of applications for celebrities and their fans to engage in new ways.
ObEN is working on a consumer experiences, where every person can create their own PAI. We will be rolling out our beta application early next year which enables a user to take a selfie and record a brief voice sample, and engage in peer-to-peer AI interactions.
ObEN is also working with research institutions on use cases in healthcare to create VR experiences that help senior citizens, and those suffering from mental illness.
What are the trends in AI in general? According to you who are the top players in the AI space?
Nikhil: There is tremendous amount of research and development going on in areas of general artificial intelligence. Consumers are able to utilize such progress using interfaces such as personal assistant like Siri and Alexa and also in autonomous driving with Tesla. As computation gets faster and cheaper and more and more data is processed and utilized and learnt from in more efficient manner, we will see better use for AI in our lives. Companies such as Google, Tencent, Amazon, Baidu, Microsoft, Facebook and Apple are making huge strides in this broad domain.
ObEN’s focus in the narrow domain AI and making AI work for the individual.
What according to you will be a scenario where the full potential of AI is utilized for the betterment of our lives?
Nikhil: With the brain of personal avatars, it will be possible to be in two places at the same time. While sitting in a meeting in China (and speaking/understanding Chinese) your avatar will act on your behalf while you are doing what needs to be done back at home. AI is not limited by time or geographical constraints, like a human is. AI is changing the way we’re able to live, and will enable us to be more productive so we can do more of the things we love.
What are ObEN’s revenue streams?
Nikhil: We work very closely with celebrities to identify new opportunities to use their Personal AI and creating innovative engagement with their fans using mediums such as AR, VR, Mobile & IoT.
How do you plan to address the various security and privacy issues? will ‘digital identity’ thefts be a concern in the future?
Nikhil: Security and privacy are very important issues, especially when it comes to an individual’s identity. That is why Blockchain is such an integral component to our approach, as it will alleviate most of the security concerns users have.