By Kellen Beck
There’s something off about Douglas.
He’s touted by his creators as the “most realistic real-time autonomous digital human in the world.” If that’s true, then I don’t think the best the world has to offer is quite good enough.
Douglas is being developed by Digital Domain, a visual effects titan that has worked on movies including Titanic and the last two Avengers releases, as well as video games like Destiny and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. He’s certainly an impressive creation visually, but once conversations get rolling, you can really tell that he’s an imposter.
Digital Domain modeled Douglas off of its senior director of software R&D, Doug Roble, capturing his facial structure, movements, and mannerisms from all angles, as well as his voice. By creating as realistic a model as possible, the goal of Douglas is to make conversations between humans and machines feel easier and more natural.
While his face looks pretty good in the demo Zoom call, Douglas’ voice doesn’t quite match his mannerisms, his movements are slightly off, and he seems to really love gesturing with his hands. Instead of acting like a real human, the way he movies is more reminiscent of a modern video game non-player character (NPC) running through an animation cycle.
You’re on the right path, Digital Domain, but there’s still a disconnect here between us humans and the slightly off, vaguely unsettling appearance of Douglas that settles somewhere inside the uncanny valley.
Alarmingly, this technology is adaptive, Digital Domain explains. With just 10 minutes of video and 30 minutes of audio, Douglas can change his voice and face like a chameleon. Imagine chatting with this AI for 30 minutes and all of a sudden he turns into you. Chilling.
Digital Domain is currently looking for investors, partners, and clients to help them bring Douglas into the wider world.