The AI From ObEN Wants To Create 'Personal Artificial Intelligence' For Everyone

From fake news, to the unlimited amount of hoaxes on the web, Artificial Intelligence (AI) can either help eliminate them, or make things worse.

But whatever the future holds, the AI startup ObEN founded in 2014 and led by Nikhil Jain, is working to advance machine learning technology to give everyone a 3D avatar that looks and also sounds just like them. Coming from the word "Oben, which means "above" or to be on top in German, it's a nutshell of Jain's vision.

To create the 3D avatars, ObEN uses AI to create a layer that sits "above” the physical and face-to-face interactions. This can open a new way on technology interaction where someone wouldn't have to be present to interact with the audience, for example.

According to Jain, with those avatars, people can practically be immortalized, in a sense that avatars can live forever.

Below is a YouTube clip showing Jain on one side, and his ObEN-made virtual copy on the other:

"We believe every person in the world will eventually have their own copy," said Jain. "One that looks like them, talks like them — it’s not that far off. An AI-driven virtual copy that can be used by consumers like us in day-to-day applications. For example, my AI — my copy — can now sing better than me.”

Starting with himself. Jain travels a lot for work, for example, and some kind of virtual AI copy of himself could be used to interact with his family so they didn’t end up missing him as much.

"Our proprietary speech, computer vision and NLP technologies are built using deep learning techniques to leverage the continuous flow of new information every time one of our applications is used. By perpetually retraining our neural networks to adjust to new and ever-changing visual, acoustic and language cues, your PAI (Personal Artificial Intelligence) continually becomes smarter with further use."

ObEN sees the technology to have the capabilities to be more than just that. Tech giant Tencent has led a $5 million funding round into the company. Levin Yao, executive director of Tencent Investment, described ObEN as a form of entertainment and celebrity AI-driven content, built to be "inspiring."

In 2017, ObEN announced the formation of AI Stars, a joint ventures with S.M. Entertainment, one of the largest entertainment companies in Asia with a portfolio of celebrities including K-pop stars. That joint venture is using ObEN’s technology to deliver products and services that merge technology and celebrities.

ObEN is also working with Bollywood celebrities.

"Celebrities want to be connecting with their fans," Jain said. "Once we have their avatar, we can give it instructions. OK, avatar, we want you to now sing this song."

If this is on the positive side of AI, not the opposite like how others including Elon Musk that see AI as threats, the technology has the ability to create another form of technological interaction.

According to Jain, this is a wildly futuristic idea that nonetheless has plenty of practical application.