Today, a company called Intellitar is set to release Virtual Eternity, a bit of software that purports to create a digital clone of a person for posterity's sake. Theoretically, you'll be able to create an interactive video of yourself that can answer questions and respond to conversation with an AI-powered personality based on your own.
Intellitar spends a few hours capturing both your image and various vocal cues. It doesn't regurgitate canned responses, but instead generates responses from those captured sounds. That can result in an awkward conversation, sort of like talking to those 'bots that infiltrated AOL Instant Messenger back in the '90s, but what's interesting about Intellitar is that you can train it to respond in certain ways, making the avatar seem more and more like you.
The software will capture a backlog of questions, and you can browse through them, answering them in your own voice. Intellitar uses a blend of artificial intelligence systems to come up with a distinct personality of sorts from that input (though undoubtedly less charming than the naive Twitter-bot NELL). Less successful is the video itself, which has that almost-real-but-not-actually-real look that plagued movies like The Polar Express (and which made the backwards-talk of Twin Peaks so unnerving).
You can interact with the "Intellitar" of the company's CEO at their website, to get a sense of how the service works. Spoiler: He has no particular insight on the finale of Mad Men.
There are a few interesting applications for the software, though I actually think the stated purpose is least promising. Intellitar doesn't really capture your personality in any kind of enduring or flexible way; the AI is a bit too clumsy to really distinguish a distinct "voice." But for education or reference, it's kind of cool: Famous professors could make themselves available online to answer questions, and trips to the DMV could be made both more uncomfortable and more informative.
We note that back in 1987, the sinisterly profiteering Vu-Age Church pioneered this technology in an episode of Max Headroom.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.