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Soul Machines’ imperfect beauty has to be more than skin deep for expressions to be believable, though, with computer modeling of bone structure, muscle twitches, and other subtleties. Since leaving cinema, he’s been trying to recreate the human nervous system in software.
Analyzing facial expressions to discern a smile, even a subtle one, and analyzing voice to pick up a pleasant tone, Soul Machines’ software provides a hit of virtual dopamine to AVA’s nervous system.
All that digital artistry may seem like overkill for the system that tells people where to find their software downloads.
But a bot with a winning personality is all that saves Autodesk from a customer service apocalypse.“We’ve reached a capacity constraint where, the number of calls coming in–we just don’t have enough people,” says Gregg Spratto, Autodesk’s VP of operations. So we get a fair amount of questions that are just about how to get up and running or which product to choose,” he says.
Those wouldn’t be good attributes for a customer service bot.“There’s not much autonomy [for a digital human] because you don’t want it.
However, all the subtleties of the behavior come from the Baby X model,” says Sagar.
“We really strongly feel that if AVA is to be the front door into Autodesk, people need to feel like AVA is a great first solution and not yet another deflection mechanism,” says Spratto.
It’s a leap of faith for Autodesk to go with the Kiwi startup, but Soul Machines made a big impression with its first project, thanks to another two-time Academy Award winner.
She recorded over 20 hours of phrases that Soul Machines could manipulate into a broad range of dialog for a digital human called NADIA. “We had a group of UX [user experience] folks who did go out and survey customers,” says Spratto.Before founding Soul Machines in 2016, engineer Mark Sagar was a movie special effects guru at outfits like Sony Pictures and Peter Jackson’s Weta Digital.He won two Oscars, in 20, for his work creating lifelike CGI facial animation in films including Jackson’s .Even the current version of AVA has helped a lot, he says, handling about 40,000 customer help requests a month via the text chat, with an average turnaround of about five minutes.“It would take a small army of our internal agents to handle 40,000 conversations per month,” says Spratto.
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