Overheard/Underheard: GetAbby's Avatars Get Real
Since the early 1970s, there's been a lot of research into a concept known as "the uncanny valley," the point at which people become uncomfortable interacting with automated systems that too closely resemble real human beings. And while the body of research would indicate that this valley does indeed exist, one company has not only crossed that valley, but finds itself quite a distance on the other side of it. In designing its intelligent virtual assistants, GetAbby's basic premise is that avatars need to be as close to humans as possible to be believable and trustworthy.
GetAbby leverages speech recognition, natural language processing, and artificial intelligence, but above all else, bases its avatars on actual humans, encoded with its customers' messages in mind.
The technology behind the GetAbby human avatar is called True Image. With it, companies can use anyone as the basis for their avatars. True Image transforms video recordings of the person into an avatar with real human characteristics and expressivity.
Pittsburgh-based GetAbby has found that its human avatars have an advantage over any other type of animated character because humans are inherently influenced by a natural urge to communicate with other humans. According to the company, 70 percent of consumers who have interacted with its avatars have used them to make online purchases, and more than 85 percent say they find the avatars to be trustworthy and would interact with them again.
So the uncanny valley is, after all, just a hypothesis. It probably doesn't apply if the technology gets it right.