Wonders.ai founder Michael Lin (left) and Ansforce CEO Jeffrey Chiu. credit: DIGITIMES
The Startup Wonders.ai team is trying to bring to life the animated characters on the other side of the screen using artificial intelligence technology. By endowing them with personality and social capabilities, they can become AI companions in people’s daily lives.
According to Michael Lane, founder and CEO of Wonders.ai, some of their product concepts came from the 2013 American movie “Her,” which tells the story of a man who falls in love with his AI assistant. Lin noted that the AI assistant in the movie acts as a secretary or companion for the main character. In addition, the intelligence of AI continues to evolve and is not just a strict chatbot.
Lin hopes that the virtual character of Wonders.ai will have the same rich and natural movement as the real person. However, in terms of appearance, the anime look is still preferred. Not only because Lin is a fan of the anime itself but also because he thinks that if the hypothetical character looks too realistic, it could cause a “super-valley” effect, which doesn’t bode well for a companion character.
Wonders.ai was founded in Silicon Valley in February 2018. In 2019, it expanded its offices to Taiwan. The main source of funds is angel investors in the United States. So far, it has raised NT$200 million (US$6.25 million), focusing on early-stage research and development. It currently has about 20 employees.
Lin got his start in AI during his college days when he wrote an AI match analysis program for an esports competition. Later, he shifted his focus to virtual reality after participating in many events. Ansforce CEO and influencer Jeffrey Chiu serves as a consultant to Wonders.ai. In return, Lynn helps promote Ansforce abroad.
Create a Metaverse world
Facebook’s change of name to Meta has created a lot of hype around the metaverse. But Lin believes that to build a virtual world, you must first have a complete “world”, and be an industry leader in terms of content creation and technology. Otherwise, you are just following a trend.
“The metaverse is not a new concept,” Lin said. “The MMORPGs we’ve been playing for 15-20 years are really kind of a metaverse.” Wonders.ai’s vision is to bring virtual characters into the real world to become the user’s friend, family, lover, or companion animal. Not only will they have personality and emotions, but they can also chat and interact with the user. However, Lin emphasized that virtual characters can only serve as support and cannot replace actual in-person interactions.
At events, Wonders.ai demonstrated an interactive technology where an augmented reality (AR) image projected from a phone can be hidden by real people or objects, rather than objects passing through and distorting the image like normal projections. This type of technology is based on artificial intelligence algorithms and spatial recognition applications. Wonders.ai has developed an AI-powered Mixed Reality (MR) application platform that gives virtual characters the ability to detect, track and identify objects, hand gestures and the environment.
Through natural language processing and voice synthesis technology, virtual characters can respond to users by synthesizing an emotionally charged voice in real time as well. This technology has already received two international patents for the use of artificial intelligence, with three more patent applications in the process of being processed.
The team also developed a Personality Engine based on a five-factor personality model. The virtual character’s attitude toward the user will change over time to suit different contexts, giving users a personal and unique experience. This kind of technological development will be within the range that humans can control.
Virtual character Pipkin Pippa interacts with real-life fans on stage in the live broadcast of the series AI that takes place in Canada in September 2022.
When discussing its market position, Lin mentioned that Wonders.ai is an AI technology company, not a game or animation company. Currently, virtual reality developers around the world have a different vision. Wonders.ai believes it can create more instant interaction and personalized content. Moreover, Wonders.ai technology can be used on smartphones and does not require the purchase of an additional virtual character projector.
In terms of recent technological advances, Lin hopes to make the virtual characters on the Wonder Platform showcase even more awesome characters and “everyday actions.” He believes that augmented reality glasses are becoming lightweight and 5G internet access is becoming more widespread, drastically reducing technical limitations on virtual characters/human interactions. It is expected to soon offer consumers other platform options besides smartphones.
Beginning in the fourth quarter of 2022, Wonders.ai will showcase the Wonder Platform at Vtuber events in North American regions and collaborate with more virtual character developers. Currently, in addition to a small office in Silicon Valley, Wonders.ai also plans to gradually expand its business to Japan and use AI technology in the medical and education sectors.