Samsung is preparing an “artificial intelligence being” that could become your “best friend”: It will debut at CES, award-winning director Shekhar Kapur said on Twitter today. The project, called Neon, comes out of Samsung STAR Labs, a skunkworks division of the major electronics maker.
What SiFi movies have just started exploring, the Indian born scientist @pranavmistry is bringing soon to your home. An Artificial Intelligence being as your best friend? Come see us at #CES2020 at the #NEON corner. @neondotlife https://t.co/z1fPDfUtZl
— Shekhar Kapur (@shekharkapur) December 23, 2019
STAR Labs head Pranav Mistry has been tweeting vaguely about NEON since December 16, leaving Kapur to fill in the blanks. “Finally, artificial intelligence that will make you wonder which one of you is real,” Kapur Tweeted on Dec. 17. Since then, Neon’s website has been tweeting pictures of attractive models with the tagline, “Have you ever met an ‘Artificial?'” The font the company is using reminds me a lot of the taglines from the AMC show “Humans,” which was about androids.
— NEON (@neondotlife) December 21, 2019
For what it’s worth, Neon’s own site doesn’t give away much, just showing the tagline and logo over a wave of swirling colors. The project has also posted seven completely uninformative teaser videos to Instagram, like the one below:
Facebook says three pages are related to the Neon project: Mistry’s own page, a beatmaker called Time Future Beats, and Eone, which makes high-fashion watches that can be used by blind people.
Samsung’s research division has been doing a lot of work on AI, with a webpage spotlighting the company’s work “to secure cutting-edge AI core technologies and platforms—human-level AI with the ability to speak, recognize, and think—to provide new AI-driven experiences and value to its customers.” At the heart of the AI matrix on that research page is a logo for Bixby, Samsung’s much-mocked voice assistant.
Last year, I wrote a column on why Samsung is hell-bent on making Bixby happen, and the view is as valid now as it was then. As I wrote, AI assistants are a key part of the potential OS and UI infrastructure of a 5G world:
“When the high data rates and low latencies of 5G take hold, local processing on devices becomes much less important. We’ll be surrounded by ‘thin,’ cloud-based devices that just make a lot of requests to servers. Many will be screenless or keyboardless, making voice interfaces a natural way of dealing with the 5G world. Cloud-powered computing capabilities will produce high-quality voice recognition. So we think we’re seeing the voice-assistant battle play out right now in 2018, but it’s going to get really interesting in 2020, when 5G really hits.”
Neon could be an evolution of Bixby, but it’s more likely to be a concept product that shows off the depth of Samsung’s AI research. We’ll see at CES, starting on January 7.