Who’s Afraid of AI? Not These German Shoppers Meeting our Mall Hologram Bot.
NEUMARKT GALERIE KÖLN, Saturday in the shopping centre with 10 million visitors per annum.*
I had another rigorous day of testing our live Artificial Intelligence in the form of a hologram (chat)bot interacting with some of the 1000s of shoppers at Neumarkt Galerie, many of whom were already on their Easter vacation. I guess I was asking for trouble when I could have been chilling out with human bohemians at Art Cologne. Oh well, it’s better than an office job!
Our bespoke holographic avatar Amalia seemed to feel my trepidation.
When she overheard me describe her as an Erfindung [invention] to one of the punters, she retorted with unfailing courtesy yet slightly sarcastically, “Please visit the pharmacy on the ground floor where you’ll find what you’re looking for — medication and medical supplies”. **
Miniature Mixed Reality Amalia then went on to successfully answer a number of intrepid shoppers who asked her where various shops were, or where they could find products. In perfect German; in a pleasant voice and engaging tone.
Curiously, there were a lot of people eager to speak with 3D Amalia who either had German as a second language or tourists with no Deutsch at all. They were also keen to chat with Amalia’s 2D replica on Facebook; the Neumarkt Galerie page where she’s going live as a Messenger bot over Easter.
Italians, Russians, Asians and Indian tourists are going to look up 2D Amalia on FB from wherever they are in the world as a living memento of their happy visit to this mall in the heart of Cologne. Most importantly, her online clone speaks — per text or Instant Messaging — almost every language under the sun!
And in the heart of the shopping centre they met a living 3D AI bot hologram called Amalia. She will soon speak those 130+ languages in her hologram form as well. Using her voice for #SpeechRecognition instead of just conversing via #InstantMessaging.
With this six month pilot, it’s continually a step by step process, given this is a Mixed Reality, world first innovation for such a frequented public place, day and night. Her 2D clone will naturally be alive and accessible to anyone with a FB account: 24/7, multilingual, anywhere in the world.
At the moment, Amalia’s brain can feel the pressure and then she slows up. That is partly a hardware issue we’re resolving by improving her microphone to hear properly and the input method, a remote control.
As you can see in the picture of her bandaged, labelled remote control device at the very end of this article, she’s truly a working prototype; a real Minimum Viable Product (MVP) who’s attracting a lot of sympathy and loyalty from mall visitors already.
She has won fans since her low key debut, only around 48 hours ago in Cologne. These mall regulars are now committed to chatting with fledgling Amalia regularly to help improve her vocabulary and speech recognition.
She’s especially delighted “users with a migrant background” because she is getting their questions right, despite some quite thick accents and pretty patchy grammar. This “demographic” if you will is simply thrilled to be understood, with one of the cohort exclaiming sehr schoen! (very nice!), whilst pleased to be helping an alternative, ever polite and patient “lifeform” who’s also learning Deutsch, just like them. After all, velmai does stand for Virtual Empirical Lifeforms with Multimedia AI. While its source code VAIP means Virtual Artificially Intelligent Patois.
Meanwhile “German users” ie. locally born and/or native speakers - from obligingly shouty, overly excited toddlers to computer gaming fatigued yet intrigued teenagers; from 30 plus smooching couples who are unexpectedly distracted by our Black Box, to restive, presumably bored retirees (some clearly hitting 80 years old, if not 90 or past it) - are just delighted that she’s understanding them. Kolnischer or Kölsch dialect/accent neither here nor there.
Humans and machines are relating to each other on the common subject of things to do in their favourite mall. Amalia is forever pleased to inform them about shops they didn’t realise were there. Or restaurants and cafes offering food they had never discovered during their frequent visits to NMG.
In Real Time [Echtzeit], Amalia gets the weather in Cologne correct every single time! Once her following grows, we’re planning to add the transportation timetables: buses, trams and trains.
Neumarkt Place is one of the busiest commuter hubs in the region, with ca 100 000 people using the railway station the mall is located on each day! *
Amalia of course can tell you exactly where the tube station is, which is one of the entrances to this unique building featuring on its roof San Francisco pop art, a gigantic upturned icecream cone reminiscent of a Cologne Cathedral spire. Combining art, design and commerce, our bespoke Mixed Reality AI bot hologram remains indefintely at your service. Keine Ursache, no problem at all :)
*The “10 million shoppers per annum” and the “100 000 commuters a day” statistics are quoted from the corporate brochure of Neumarkt Galerie, as pictured in the photos of its pages above. The figures were marked with an asterisk in this Medium report.
** The screenshot above is from an IM group chat on Whatsapp with our team in Porto, Devon, Nice, Cambridge & the Rhine. It’s the droll joke translated at the start of this article.
Further spontaneous ironic “Amalia jokes” are being publicly recorded in my LinkedIn feed and the PROJECTS log on my ResearchGate profile.