By Valentin Bontemps and Joseph Boyle / AFP, BARCELONA, Spain
Mobile World Congress (MWC) is primarily a gathering for telecom bigwigs, but far from the main thoroughfares of the massive conference, there are always hidden tech gems.
Among the most unusual products spotted at last week’s event was artificial intelligence (AI) cloning technology.
“You can live forever” is an advertising slogan that belongs to the best.
This is how Memori Yamato described the “personalized AI clone” of her Japanese company Alt Inc.
“Your descendants can continue to speak and interact with you even after you die,” Yamato said.
The idea is to upload as many videos, pictures and audio examples as possible during your lifetime.
The system would use this data to generate an AI mirror and clone you in the digital world.
“It will look like you, it will speak in your voice and it will even think like you,” she said.
The idea took nine years to develop, and feedback from early users suggests the technology has nailed looks and voices, she said.
A dog’s nose carries identifying characteristics similar to a human fingerprint. South Korean start-up Petnow Inc took that information and ran with it – like a dog behind a stick – to create a biometric database of pets based on nose prints rather than microchips.
“We’ve known since the 1940s that dog noses work a bit like fingerprints,” said Petnow Business Development Manager Peter Jung.
About 100,000 animals are abandoned in South Korea each year, often because owners can’t afford the vet bills, he said.
“Less than 10 percent have chips because people don’t like the process,” he said.
Petnow only needs one photo and the AI will do the rest, making sure the photos are good enough for identity purposes.
Jung said 50,000 pet owners have signed up since last year, and he hopes the government will change the rules so his system can replace chips.
Cat lovers don’t have to worry.
Their noses might be too small to be identifiable, but each cat’s face is unique and can be used in the system, the company said.
A staple from the pages of sci-fi and the dreams of the super-rich, flying taxis could be available as early as 2025, SK Telecom Co. said.
At the MWC, some participants got a first taste thanks to virtual reality headsets and a prototype with jerky seats.
Halfway between a helicopter and a drone, the vehicle has six electric motors that enable vertical takeoff and landing.
It can carry up to four passengers and travel at speeds of up to 320 km/h.
South Korea’s largest telecoms provider developed it with California startup Joby Aviation and hopes it will solve congestion in South Korea’s cities without contributing to global warming.
“In Korea, we have severe traffic congestion in urban areas, but building a mass transit system like a highway or a subway has many social costs,” said Ken Wohn, manager of SK Telecom.
“With this UAM [Urban Air Mobility] Service can reduce our customers’ travel time without creating as much infrastructure,” he said.
Humans could spend their later years in the company of “socially intelligent” robots capable of “forming an emotional bond” with them.
That’s the vision of Spanish tech company Eurecat, which has developed a robot called NHOA — or “never home alone.”
It aims to reduce the loneliness of older people living at home.
The orange and white robot is 160 cm tall and can be controlled with a touch screen and voice.
Eurecat Healthcare Innovation Manager David Mari said the goal is not to replace human relationships, but to “humanize” the applications and connected objects used by older people.
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