Marco Polo

A Conversational Technology Experience

I can make Barkley’s CEO, Jeff King, say anything I want. It’s like a Jedi mind trick. I say something. He says it right back. I do it again. He mimics me again. I’m Obi Wan Kenobi in Mos Eisley. It’s kind of funny. And a little disturbing. But mostly awesome.

Lyrebird gives me Jedi mind powers

I’m not actually being mimicked by our CEO, of course, but by an AI-based simulation of his speech patterns. Jeff was a good sport and volunteered his voice for an installation in our new exhibit, Marco Polo, an exploration of Conversational Technologies.

We‘re using an AI voice technology called Lyrebird to demonstrate artificial voice synthesis. The ability to create or falsify a voice offers new creative possibilities, commercial potential, and ethical and legal hazards, not to mention implications for “fake news.” Even if the output of our demo isn’t perfect yet (Jeff’s affect is a little flat, and the pace is too regular), it isn’t hard to see this technology getting good enough fast enough to be useful and dangerous in the near future.

Mitsuku, the three times Loebner Prize winner

Next to the Lyrebird installation is Mitsuku, about whom we’ve written before. She’s the three-time winner of the Loebner Prize for the world’s most human-like chatbot. She joins us thanks to the generous contribution of Steve Worswick, her developer. We fell in love with Mitsuku and wanted our partners and clients to have a sense of where state-of-the-art bot conversations are now and where they might go.

SAL looks and listens to analyze how you’re feeling.

Next to Mitsuku is an installation called SAL. He uses voice and emotion detection to measure your emotional reactions. A prerequisite to achieving real, conversational intimacy is the ability to read emotion. AI is starting to develop that understanding. There’s more to SAL’s story, but we’ll save it for a future post.

A central feature of the exhibit is the case studies bot. As we began to research what brands are doing with conversational technologies, we were quickly impressed with the overwhelming volume of activity in this space. We wanted to curate the best case studies for our visitors, so we created an Alexa skill that lets them talk to an Amazon Echo Show and see and hear examples across several business categories. It’s a simple application, but a surprisingly effective use of Amazon’s latest Echo device.

Moonshot’s new exhibit lets visitors speed-date conversational partners

Rounding out the exhibit is a selection of smart speakers. We’ve teed up representative skills for each speaker, including a few that lead down some interesting rabbit holes. The speakers can introduce themselves and even interact with the monitor behind them.

We‘ve already begun to give a few sneak peeks, even as we put the finishing touches on the experience. We’re looking forward to inviting clients, partners and guests to see Marco Polo, and we hope they get as excited as we are about the strategic importance and creative potential these technologies offer.

Marco Polo — A Conversational Technology Experience
Step into the bot spots
Sit down for a chat on the couch with Casebot

Credit and Thanks to:

Travis Kramer
Jim Howard
Sara Leuty
Karen Faith
Paul Corrigan
Nigel Morley
Jared Tomlinson
Preston Richey
Ricky Catto
Mark Logan