There is one thing that we know to be inevitable: change. And change seems to be speeding up, delivering the future even faster. Just think of how quickly we have shifted to online work, shopping and self-care during the past year. How quickly we adopted Zoom, Clubhouse, and Signal as primary ways to better connect and communicate online. What does that mean about us as humans? And what does that mean for our future as we continually try to find better ways to express ourselves and connect authentically in digital spaces? In particular, as we begin to use digital humans as our primary interface for all things digital, what will our world be like?
To find out, we recently (and virtually) sat down with the psychologist Ph.D in Psychology Dr. António Marques, professor at the Polytechic Institute of Porto, to help us decode and better understand the introduction of digital humans, how our communications in the digital world compared to those in the physical world, and what the future might hold in this area.
Dr. Marques undoubtedly believes in one thing: the biggest challenge when creating digital humans is their ability to empathize and to connect emotionally. “We can relate to avatars whether they look exactly like us or they are a more cartoonish representation of ourselves. But for us to feel truly represented and connected to a digital human, they need to behave like us emotionally and empathize the same way we do,” he explains.
The appearance of a digital human is critical. To truly have credibility and usefulness, we must unlock the subtleties of how people communicate and interpret one another. That’s why Didimo first started to perfect the visual representation of a user but is quickly evolving to bring in the emotional components and to map an Empathic Feedback Loop. To enhance the user experience of the digital human interface, to intuit or “read” other emotionally rich didimos, bringing the final range of human interaction into reach and making human interactions the same regardless of physical or digital media.
Didimo’s technology is also opening a new world of possibilities – and, yes, change. So, we were wondering how society may look at the work we are developing and at our mission. What happens when digital humans are an extension of ourselves and not a separate tool? In a few words: it is a big challenge. Other challenges may present themselves such as regulations around digital humans. These are inevitable because they provide accountability and confidence among people. Educating people about the introduction of digital humans will also be needed, to show people how people can take advantage of their digital representation as well as social norms for our digital world.
For Dr. Marques, despite these challenges, innovation is needed. “The more conservative ones may not understand these advancements, like the invention of the phone, or electricity, or the TV for example, and may not welcome them with open arms. But it is important to ask ourselves, ‘are these developments positive overall?’ I have no doubt they brought – and are bringing - wonderful things to society and there is no better example than how this past year has caught all of us off-guard. Without the internet, video calls, and social media, we would have not been able to truly stay connected – which is a basic human need. Technological developments are amazing.”
When our didimos look like us, act like us, and emotionally respond like us, we will be able to reach the level of humanity we are craving and aiming for in the digital world. Dr. Marques continues, “I see all these modifications and advancements in technology as huge positive societal alterations, ones which will allow for us to grow closer relationships.”
We asked Dr. Marques if he has hesitations or apprehension about a future with digital humans, to which he replied, “absolutely not one bit! On the contrary, I am very excited to see how digital humans will reshape and better our future.”
We are too, Dr. Marques.