Moving from Bots to Beings

Marc Canter
Apr 27, 2018 · 4 min read

Over the past two years we have been working on Storytelling Bots — which we see as a new form of self-expression. Only one problem — our notion of what Bots COULD be didn’t line up with how people see what Bots are today.

To most people Bots are automated scripts which game Twitter or Instagram to pimp up followers, or hack into Facebook accounts — to try and “friend” you. Most Bots are seen as tools for evil deeds and we simply cannot be associated with such beasts anymore.

ChatBots meanwhile are great for tech support, selling things, providing advice or implementing goal-oriented “intent-based” activities — in general. But that ain’t what we’re doing — either.

I’ve been pitching, giving speeches and explaining our vision of what Bots COULD be for two years now — and most of the time I get a “Huh?”

The final straw broke my camel’s back at the recent Pulver “Monage” ChatBot Summit when I asked the audience “when do you think Bots are gonna come to SnapChat or Instagram?”

The answer I got back informed me that there are all SORTS of Bots for Instagram — NONE of them being the kinds of Bots we’re building.

“UGH!” that was it. No more. Time to pivot!

So now we’re going to start calling our Bots = Beings.

We’re building Storytelling Beings.

‘Cause that’s what the whole idea was in the first place.

Our tools will enable anyone to add Interactivity to an Instagram or SnapChat Story — and turn that into a sentient Being.

The Being will then be able to be shared with others, so that the Being’s “Episode” can be interacted with — going beyond what “comments” currently provide. Machine Learning will watch and learn HOW people interact with these Beings and gradually make the Being — smarter.

Beings can hold LOTS of Episodes, so in that sense — Beings are more like a YouTube channel than a ChatBot.

Different kinds of Beings will be created that offer different kinds of Interactive experiences. Imagine recording a Selfie and discovering the topics and subject matter you mention in your selfie, become part of what your Being is talking about?

Or imagine your Being’s interactors (the conversation participants) interrupting a story and asking questions or inserting their own photos or videos — into the mix.

Beings are a proxy — for you. Or your Cat. Or your favorite car.

Afterall what is storytelling today? Gossiping about that cute new boy in class or ranting about Trump is as much storytelling as a classic Joseph Campbell Heroe’s journey!

Sequencing your video clip with fav photos and overlay memes — is certainly storytelling — if for no other reason than SnapChat invented it and Instagram stole the idea! We used to call those things “slide shows” — but whatev…..

Now even Facebook has Stories — but they are linear and flat. You can’t interact with these (slideshow) stories — and at best — you can leave comments on them.

Ho hum! That’s so 90's!

We’ve had commenting for 20+ years already — whatever happned to innovation?

The history of Sci-Fi has imagined just what “sentient Beings” would look like and how they’d act — for over 70 years. Call them Robots, Hal or Eliza — our collective imagination and expectations couldn’t be any higher than they are today — now that Alexa and Google Asst have arrived.

But you don’t have to be misunderstood by Siri to realize that we are still decades away from having a truly sentient being to converse with. So what do we do until then?

We call our technology “Narrow AI” <patent pending> not because its yet another attempt at building the holey grail of AI, but because we reject the notion that to talk and interact with an AI means that: a) it has to understand everything you say or that b) the AI even answers with cognizant, comprehensive language. I’m not talking about jibberish, but more like sarcastic poetry or rogue tour guides.

Whatever happened to just “having fun?”

Its called “entertainment” people! Instigate Beings will act as a Pinocchio to your Gepetto. They’ll do whatever you tell them to do — kind of. You HOPE that they’ll say the right thing, but maybe not. You’ll share them with your friends — and hope for the best.

As your friends interact, upload photos or share gossip with your Being — its vocabulary, knowledge base and personality will grow. By weaving your backstory, fav memories and current crushes into your Being’s Episodes — we’re hoping that a truly new kind of “blog” or “YouTube” channel emerges.

Back in the day — the same team working on Instigate Beings — created a tool called “VideoWorks” — which became “Director.” We were the first multimedia authoring system. We invented this thing called a “multimedia player.” Timeline based multimedia authoring tools then evolved into Flash — and the rest is history.

AI is at a similar point in development — as multimedia was back in 1985. Easy to use intuitive tools are needed to enable normal people to control and bring to fruition — the creative interactive possibilities of AI.

We’re developing Instigate Beings to be that tool — so that Gen Z-ers (my kids) and everyone else — can design and build their own Storytelling Beings.

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