TALE is a speech coaching system that is designed to improve public speaking skills that shows how AI is moving into non-traditional roles.

“Before we go, I’d like to send my good wishes to all of the journalists across the country. As an AI anchor under development I know there is a lot for me to improve,” said Xinhua News Agency’s newest star, an artificial intelligence news anchor. The robot promised to work tirelessly 365 days a year, no sick days. 

WALL-E is one of the many movies depicting future possibilities of the world. © Gonzalo Iza

Recently, AI has begun to enter fields that we used to considered ‘safe’, such as journalism, jurisdiction, decision making and compliance, all of the jobs we thought needed a human factor. But it seems that no profession is secure anymore. We no longer know who is a robot or who is a human, and maybe in the final stage of humanity we will all float around in televised buggies like in Wall-E. We have reached an odd point in evolution where we are scared of our own invention. Yet, that shouldn’t be the case. In this story Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde work side-by-side. Artificial Intelligence isn’t a threat to humanity. It’s a relief.

The Good Tale

It is when AI is combined with other modern technologies that they enhance our daily lives.

Plenty of emerging AI-based technologies are made not to replace humans, but to substitute or complement them. For example, Hong Kong-based startup TALE has developed a presentation coaching AI that helps users improve their public speaking skills. Its founder Jamie Lao said that AI itself might be just a trend. It is when AI is combined with other modern technologies that they enhance our daily lives. 

TALE itself is in the same work field as speech coaches. It helps people better their presentation skills by giving them both verbal and non-verbal feedback. The program works incredibly simply for how complicated that sounds — TALE provides feedback based on the speaker’s body language, eye contact, posture, use of filler words, repetitive vocabulary, volume and speed. Most interestingly, it also gives feedback on the emotions conveyed by the speaker. Using facial recognition technology, it tells you whether you look angry, happy or somewhere in between. 

The fact that an AI can detect and decode emotions is what seems to scare people the most. Similarly, in the case of the AI anchor it is the fact that it can show human emotions that frightens us. And whilst the idea of the TALE robot reading our emotions might understandably seem terrifying, the AI itself is a harmless clip-on microphone. 

Friend? Enemy? Frenemy?

“It’s a complementary tool to humans,” said Jamie. She speaks of AI the way in which we talk about braces, prosthetic hips or breast implants — a means of improvement. Arguably, this might be a much more suitable way to discuss AI. As an addition, rather than a replacement. Weren’t the first people to get hip replacements called cyborgs? 

The reason AI is able to advance in areas that are considered humane is machine learning. AI can basically teach itself using prior data. This combined with other recent technologies like drones, facial recognition and data harvesting is what makes AI more humane over time. 

One of the photos generated by the AI © Thispersondoesnotexist

But it also goes the other way around. Recently, the page ThisPersonDoesNotExist.com created by Philip Wang, an Uber software engineer, sprung up. Every time you refresh the page more and more AI-generated faces come up. These faces are not real. They are one hundred percent computer-made. They have never been attached to a human body.

Change is always scary, especially when it is picking up speed. But positive change is what drives us forward as a society, and if the change makers are robotic — so be it. The popular use of artificial intelligence doesn’t have to be a remote apocalyptic concept. In fact, it’s our near future. 

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