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Avatar based on kiwi technology helping Australians with a disability

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Her name is Nadia and she is changing the face of interaction between humans and machines.

Developed by academy award winner Associate Professor Mark Sagar, the world-first human like avatar with the voice of a Hollywood star is based on the Baby-X technology created at the University of Auckland.

Baby-X is an intelligent, emotionally responsive virtual toddler which drew worldwide attention when it was released in 2013, leading to the launch of artificial intelligence company Soul Machines, a spin-out venture from the University of Auckland Bioengineering Institute.

The recent commercialisation of Soul Machines was the largest deal of its type the University and their commercial company, Auckland UniServices, have done to date. Associate Professor Sagar is the CEO of Soul Machines and heads the University’s Lab for Animate Technologies.

Earlier this month Soul Machines unveiled Nadia, an online virtual assistant for Australia’s disabled community who can understand thousands of questions put to her in plain English and respond with clear and simple replies. The more interactions she has with people, the more her knowledge bank grows.

Nadia was developed for the Australian National Disability Insurance Scheme in collaboration with a range of people with different disabilities. She has the potential to provide services to 500,000 Australians with a disability, who may not be able to complete tasks such as typing on a keyboard, opening a letter, or picking up a phone and making a phone call.

Dr Sagar, who won two academy awards for his work on the Avatar blockbuster, teamed up with Hollywood star Cate Blanchett to create Nadia, with Blanchett providing the voice for the virtual assistant.

Dr Sagar says the technology empowers people with disabilities to be able to participate more fully in an increasingly digital world.

"It showcases what can happen when you combine artificial intelligence with a very human user experience," he says.

Nadia is one of the most advanced human/machine interfaces developed in the artificial intelligence space and will operate in a trial environment for the next 12 months before becoming fully operational.

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