Exploring the Frontier of Embodied AI: Virtual and Real Worlds Collide

A highly intelligent robot as imagined by Midjourney

There has been a significant amount of recent news regarding embodied AI. In the realm of artificial intelligence, an embodied agent refers to an intelligent entity that interacts with its environment through a physical body within said environment. Agents represented graphically with a body, such as a digital avatar or a cartoon animal, are also referred to as embodied agents, even though they possess a virtual rather than a physical embodiment, as explained by Wikipedia.

According to the Financial Times, Meta Platforms is currently developing digital AI agents with distinct personalities. These agents can serve as coaches, facilitators, or conversational partners, while also collecting more personalized user data for Meta. Mark Zuckerberg is contemplating the incorporation of such AI agents into the metaverse, envisioning them as highly intelligent non-player characters.

There is also news about physically embodied AI-agents, in the form of intelligent robots which can generalize knowledge and skills, transferring abilities from one context to the other. Google DeepMind presented RT-2, a model which “translates vision and language into action”. The model also incorporates data from others robots which worked in a company kitchen, those data were “tokenized”, which means they are transformed in numerical form and then integrated in the model as a kind of language. This step is crucial as it enables the robot to move around efficiently, extending beyond mere communication and understanding of instructions.

In conclusion, we are on the verge of encountering intelligent creatures in various forms—virtual space, mixed reality (where digital avatars can coexist), and even in physical embodiments within fully physical environments. While we have already encountered non-human intelligent creatures known as ‘animals,’ we are now venturing into the realm of building our very own intelligent entities from scratch. Perhaps it is time to expand our definition of what an “avatar” can be.

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