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SYFY WIRE robots

Samsung is about to reveal a new android so human it’s giving us Westworld vibes

By Elizabeth Rayne

Is a robot still a robot, even if everything about it — from the way it looks to the way it moves and talks — seems to say it’s not a robot?

Well, NEON isn’t just a robot — at least to Samsung. The company ditches any mechanical jargon altogether to call its latest creation an “artificial human,” which brings to mind that creepy lab in Westworld that puts out droids so lifelike they feel an eerily human range of emotions and can even bleed. Granted, there's nothing about whether NEON has any emotions (doubtful) or bleeds out in an Old West shooting match (highly unlikely). The company is keeping its brainchild mostly a secret for a few more days, until CES 2020 on Jan. 7, but it is teasing the internet with tweets like this:

Okay, our interest is piqued — especially after recent social media posts from filmmaker and actor Shekhar Kapur hint that he’s onto something. He might even be involved in this secret undertaking. Why else would he tweet out that this AI is supposedly so lifelike it will make you second-guess who the human is?

Kapur has also lately been tweeting about human consciousness and robots vs. people, which could possibly be related to the NEON project. You might think NEON is an upgrade of Bixby, Samsung’s digital voice assistant. Bixby is the company’s answer to Apple’s Siri, making your smartphone experience easier by answering questions and memorizing the types of questions you ask along with what apps and services you use most. It is smart enough to dial your go-to pizza place, but nowhere near human. Bixby only exists as a disembodied voice in the realm of your phone. So people started speculating that NEON was what Bixby had evolved into, but Samsung killed that rumor on Twitter:

When you find out that NEON is developed by STAR (Samsung Technology and Advanced Research) Labs, its humanity might make a little more sense. If you’ve seen The Sixth Sense, you’ve not only seen dead people but the work of STAR’s president and CEO Pranav Mistry. It was Mistry who developed the augmented reality (AR) tech for the movie. He was also behind the Galaxy Gear smartwatch, which appears deceptively like an analog watch but has advanced digital innards.

The NEON website itself is kind of spooky. There are no links or menu. You see a futuristic 3D animation of something amorphous and vaguely flower-like arranging and rearranging itself across your screen, which may remind you of the flexible materials used to mimic human skin on the robots of Westworld. Of course, that whole thing is an illusion and the “robots” are actors with real flesh and blood, but the website's animation makes you wonder whether you could actually hold this thing’s hand and mistake it for being alive with your eyes closed.

Stalk NEON’s Twitter, and besides countdown teasers and the ultracool 3D animation below with the mysterious caption "CORE R3,” Samsung barely gives anything away beyond the fact that it has given life to an artificial human.

What is CORE R3? Nobody knows. You can’t even Google it. Is this Intel déjà vu? Intel does make a Core i3 processor, so the tweet could be codespeak for this thing’s brain. Or it couldn't.

Before speculation gets too intense, just sit back, watch a Westworld marathon, and then tune in to all our CES 2020 coverage.

(via Digital Trends)