by Cindy Huynh
Couger, a Tokyo-based startup is currently working with blockchain technology, artificial intelligence (AI), and augmented reality to create a virtual human agent or a ”virtual girlfriend.”
Atsushi Ishii, the CEO of Couger said at the Community Ethereum Development Conference (EDCON) in early May that the combination of these technologies is a first. Couger was one of the startups that passed the screening process at the conference and became a part of a “superdemo” contest.
According to the Nikkei Asian Review, Ishii demonstrated the technology via a video where he asked the virtual human agent, “can you come over here?” The virtual agent quickly replied “OK” before moving from her PC and then onto the man’s smartphone, with the phone’s camera mode switched on to enable an AR experience. The virtual agent then responded “that’s a nice chair,” as she used her AI-driven image recognition capabilities to assess the footage in the room.
While the virtual human agent is a great start, Ishii’s goal is to eventually create “a world where devices act autonomously.” It involves a combination of different technologies and is dependent on an interface that can pull everything together.
The virtual human agent emerged from a project Couger was working since 2014 called Connectome. Connectome creates a “smart space” by linking different devices and technologies together to create innovations.
Blockchain to Record What an AI Learns
At EDCON, Ishii emphasized the need to link two technologies together, especially AR and blockchain technology. Couger believes that while AI can learn by identifying and analyzing the patterns in large volumes of data, it’s hard to trust the AI’s judgments unless we’re aware of what data the AI used.
Ishii’s approach is to store what the AI learns on a blockchain. The digital ledger could keep track of the information. While there are significantly large volumes of data, Ishii believes that it’s possible to see “how” and “when an AI learned and “who” had taught it the information if this data is tracked on the blockchain network.
Japanese telecommunication company KDDI has noticed Couger’s technology, and are therefore undergoing a trial of a “smart contract” system that uses blockchain technology. Honda R&D also recently introduced an AI learning simulator developed by Couger.
Benefits of Linking Blockchain Technology and Artificial Intelligence Together
Forbes contributor Bernard Marr also agrees with Ishii’s approach. He recognizes that decisions made by an AI can be tough for humans to understand. While AI algorithms can assess whether financial transactions are fraudulent, most of these decisions still require auditing by humans.
“If decisions are recorded, on a datapoint-by-datapoint basis, on a blockchain it makes it far simpler for them to be audited, with the confidence that the record has not been tampered with between the information being recorded and the start of the audit process,” said Marr.
Marr believes that while AI can offer significant advantages in a variety of industries if the public doesn’t trust it, its use will be limited. However, if the AI’s decision-making process is on the blockchain, it could help the public trust these technologies more, especially since society would gain a higher level of insight and transparency into the minds of robots.
Furthermore, AI’s can also manage blockchains more efficiently than humans or conventional computers. While traditional computers are very fast, they are seen as “very stupid” machines. Unfortunately, conventional computers cannot undergo a task without clear, explicit instructions. Instead of having computers mine blocks using a “brute force” approach, AI could manage tasks more intelligently and thoughtfully.
While it’s unclear how this could pan out, blockchain and AI are nevertheless major technological trends. They, however, can become even more revolutionary and disruptive when combined together.