Voice assistants, while intelligent, helpful and fast, demonstrate socially awkward behavior: they have to be told when they can enter a conversation, they cannot perceive non-verbal cues and they are emotionless. Just like in the real world where people avoid potentially awkward situations at all costs, so too will they avoid AI assistants if they make us feel weird when we engage with them. The true value of AI assistants will be unlocked only when they can better understand human emotions and possess situational context to not only respond to, but proactively satisfy our needs.

Now that this next generation of AI assistants are becoming embodied by humanoid avatars that are better at understanding people, such as our AI-driven virtual character Millie, it’s more important than ever to eliminate awkwardness in social AI. When you perceive an AI with eyes looking at you, it’s a whole new ball game in terms of potential risk and reward. Given these promising, exciting technological advancements, we’ve compiled a list of 5 ways you can ensure you’re creating socially savvy, non-awkward AI assistants.

Eyes will give the next AI assistants the power to make emotional connections with us

You know the scene. Robert De Niro’s Travis Bickle stares intensely at himself in the mirror: “You talkin’ to me?” A gun clicks into action from under his sleeve. His arm shoots up. To anyone watching, it’s instinct: Travis is capable of murder.

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It’s an iconic image in cinematic history. That violent look that says it all. Those dilated pupils. That menacing stare. Our ability to understand Travis’ core by a single look is perhaps partly due to De Niro’s acting chops, but also emanates from something way more powerful. In an instant in 1976 on the set of Marty Scorsese’s, Taxi Driver, Robert De Niro demonstrated to the world the sheer power of the human gaze. …

David Greenberg

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