Nerd News

Google wants to immortalize your personality forever

By  | 
Silence in the Library - bbc.co.uk

Image: Silence in the Library – bbc.co.uk

For all you Whovians out there, Google’s latest patent just screams “Silence in the Library” – you know those freaky faces on the library’s robot stations? Well, that’s what Google is essentially creating. And not only Google—there’s a number of other companies getting in on the digital avatar bandwagon. You’ll be able to choose a digital personality to interact with, from a persona library, that’s set to include celebrities. You can also record your own or your loved one’s personalities to the cloud, which would allow you to interact with the digital version of a deceased person. While the patent has some serious potential, interacting with a digital recording of someone you’ve lost seems just a little bit creepy, at least to me.

And, in typically invasive Google style, this new creation will be able to access all your digital data—the shows and music you like, the sites you visit, your general online behaviour—and use all that data to tailor a digital personality it thinks you’ll enjoy interacting with. Again, this borders on creepy to me.

The patent goes even further, stating that the personality could modify itself appropriately, when it detects specific cues. So, for example, if you’re happy, the robot will respond in kind. If you’re afraid, surprised, confused, upset, or any other recognisable emotion, the robot will respond accordingly.

So, in theory, you’ll be able to purchase a robot and download the personality of your choice, and interact with it. With another nod to “Silence in the Library”, the patent states that users can choose a “visual interface” along with a personality. And it won’t actually be necessary to purchase a robot. You’ll be able to access these digital avatars via digital devices like tablets and smart televisions, too.

One idea for a practical application of this concept came from the Universities of Kent and Plymouth in the UK. It describes the use of a virtual presence on a TV screen, tablet, or even a hologram to keep vulnerable people and seniors company. The avatar could, in theory, monitor health, including blood pressure and heart rate, as well as emotional well-being. And, in an emergency, or if it detected its human is in pain or has taken a tumble, would be able to call for an ambulance or other emergency service.

It wouldn’t just be in your home, either. Your robo personality could be cloned to other devices and locations, so you have a constant companion on your travels. Now, while this may be a little invasive, it’s got some pretty cool and useful applications. But it starts to get a little weird when we start talking about the “real personalities.” Google’s patent says that you’ll be able to download the personality of a celebrity or a deceased loved one from an uber library of personalities.

Another company, Eterni.me, is launching a similar digital personality immortalization project. They are planning a virtual 3D avatar, complete with the personality of a loved one. This company also plan to mine online data for their personalities, including emails, social profiles, and other online accounts for a fully rounded digital personality with whom their loved ones could interact and share memories. They state that they want future generations to be able to fully interact with their ancestors, and that these immortalized 3D avatars would also provide comfort and solace. And we’ve got mixed feeling about it. Yes, when you lose someone, you’d give anything to be able to talk to them one last time, but having a 3D hologram or digital avatar of that person? It feels decidedly odd, and we’re not sure how healthy that would be. What about the stage of grief? Eventually accepting the loss and moving on with your life?

Now, this kind of technology is still in its infancy. And while it’s definitely controversial, it does have practical application potential. Where do you stand? What are your thoughts? Let us know!

Fanboy Report

Fanboy Report