I love learning more about what our students do and create in life after their graduation. As part of that process we host two evenings per year where companies who wish to recruit our Engineering Science and Biomedical Engineering students make presentations to our students. This year's events were really exciting - if I didn't already have an Engineering Science degree I'd be wanting to sign up!
The companies presenting were a mix of large NZX40 listed companies, through to consultancies, through to a growing mix of vibrant mix of start-up ventures who are growing exponentially. One of the most unsual start-ups is Soul Machines. They work on avatars with emotional intelligence. "Emotional Intelligence is at the heart of forming engaging interactions with people. By adding El to our avatars, it also gives them the ability to connect and engage users on an emotional level. Our avatars can recognize emotional expression by analyzing facial expressions and vocal expression in real time." (from www.soulmachines.com)
How do Soul Machines take us to this brave new world? Dr Mark Sagar, the founder of Soul Machines speaks about some of that technology in a TED talk here.
Mark gave that talk in late 2014 - at that stage he was based at the University of Auckland. Fast forward to late 2016 and Soul Machines had been formed and had attracted $US 7.5 million in venture capital funding. The company's unique blend of expertise is now creating avatars that are set to revolutionise the way we interact with computers - for example in a project the company has with Australian government where Cate Blanchett is providing the voice for an avatar which will support disabled Australians.
I think it's awesome that one of our Biomedical Engineering degree graduates from last year's class now has a job title of "Avatar Engineer". She's part of the journey Soul Machines are o to bring us emotionally intelligent technology.