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Posted: May 07, 2013

The futurist: More about downloading a personality

How about Dave Letterman?

Thomas Frey

One of Google’s executives recently mentioned that a full 20 percent of all searches, each day, have never been done before. This means that the human-to-computer interface is evolving at a staggering rate. For this reason, downloadable personalities, although still on the drawing board, will transition in a similar fashion.

Once created, artificial personalities will begin down a path of constant evolution. As a starting point, they will be constructed around a series of “personality modules” such as:

  • Voice module
  • Humor module
  • Famous quote module
  • Advice module
  • Encouragement module (motivation)
  • Physical appearance module
  • Frequently asked question module

With the right framework it will be quite easy to launch a new personality and many celebrities will want to get into the act.

As an example, creating a David Letterman personality will begin with downloading a few hours of his recorded voice and the computer will learn to speak like him. His “top 10” lists and jokes from his monolog will be added on a daily basis, along with famous quotes, words of wisdom, and advice.

Using a series of images it will be easy to create a David Letterman avatar to serve as the persona projected onto a facial display. Over time, people will ask a number of questions that he can spend time answering, or have someone on his staff respond to. 

Much like a living organism, each personality will be developed around a growing body of content that transforms with each additional module

Critically important to this technology will be the revenue models and your willingness to spend money on a celebrity personality like David Letterman for your computer?

Next Generation Opportunities for Downloadable Personalities 

If you had the ability to create a new “personality,” with some new personality-builder software, what features would you want it to have? And what type of devices would you want to download it into? 

Adding a personality or two to a computer or robot is only one possibilities. What if you could download personalities onto your refrigerator, your car, your bathroom mirror, or the front door of your house?

  • Do you want your refrigerator to criticize you every time you open the door and stare blankly at what’s inside? People on a diet may love this feature.
  • Would you want a car that asked you questions about your schedule for the day and helped you map out a more efficient strategy?
  • For women that were fixing their hair and putting on makeup, would you want to interact with a mirror that made suggestions about hair styles and eye color?
  • Would you like to program your front door to automatically ask all solicitors to go away, or recognize your friends and cordially invite them in? 

People love to talk to their plants, so what if the plants could talk back? Every flowerpot and plant-holder could exude the personality of the plant. Add a few sensors and the plant could tell you exactly when it needs attention.

Arguing Shoes 

A few years ago I created a future scenario about a product I called “Arguing Shoes”: 

“Our research has shown that most children today think of their feet as an extension of their own personality, and a source of entertainment. For this reason we have created the world’s first talking shoes. But after extensive testing we found that just talking to their feet didn’t exactly excite kids. So we spent time designing shoes that not only talk, and carry on a conversation with each other, but also argue with each other. For whatever reason, kids just love watching shoes that are constantly arguing and bickering with each other. 

To make it even more interesting, our shoes not only argue with each other, we’ve designed them to pick a fight with any other shoes within earshot. This will create hilarious situations in shopping malls, movie theaters and schools, entertaining children everywhere!” 

Is this a realistic possibility?

Final Thoughts

Thinking through the options, I would want to download a Conan O’Brien personality to have fun with, Ben Franklin to give me advice, and Morgan Freeman to explain things to me.

Taking it a few steps further, I would want Walter Cronkite to tell me the news, Bill Cosby to help put things into perspective, and Mother Teresa to keep me humble.

If we designed robots to take care of babies, they should have the voice and personality of the mother, automated pet walkers should come with the personality of their owner, and as Sugata Mitra has suggested, students struggling in school are most encouraged by hearing the voice of a grandmother.

Automatic Teller Machines could come equipped with the personalities of highly trusted people like Warren Buffet or Suze Orman 

The world of downloadable personalities is still waiting to be launched, but in my way of thinking, it won’t take long to completely explode.

Let me close with a few questions:

  • If there was one personality that you would most want to interact with, who would it be?
  • Would you be an early adopter, downloading one of the earlier offerings, or wait to see how well it was received?
  • Assuming a monthly fee for a downloadable personality, how much would you be willing to pay?
  • If the pricing of personalities was low enough, $2-$3 a month, how many would you download?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. As for me, I can’t wait.

Thomas Frey is the executive director and senior futurist at the DaVinci Institute and currently Google’s top-rated futurist speaker.  At the Institute, he has developed original research studies, enabling him to speak on unusual topics, translating trends into unique opportunities. Tom continually pushes the envelope of understanding, creating fascinating images of the world to come.  His talks on futurist topics have captivated people ranging from high level of government officials to executives in Fortune 500 companies including NASA, IBM, AT&T, Hewlett-Packard, Unilever, GE, Blackmont Capital, Lucent Technologies, First Data, Boeing, Ford Motor Company, Qwest, Allied Signal, Hunter Douglas, Direct TV, Capital One, National Association of Federal Credit Unions, STAMATS, Bell Canada, American Chemical Society, Times of India, Leaders in Dubai, and many more. Before launching the DaVinci Institute, Tom spent 15 years at IBM as an engineer and designer where he received over 270 awards, more than any other IBM engineer.

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