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New Zealand startup Soul Machines puts human face on AI

Company founded by 'Avatar' animator will bring its digital humans to Asia next year

Soul Machines' digital humanoid Lia shows lifelike expressions that would be hard for a physical robot to match. (Courtesy of Soul Machines)

TOKYO -- "Do you need me to tell everyone your life story?" asks Lia as she appears on a screen, offering to introduce the speaker. Her wrinkles and moving eyes make her look like a real person, but she is a digital humanoid.

New Zealand-based startup Soul Machines has so far created 15 such humanoids -- disembodied screen presences -- employed mainly as customer service assistants. They work in seven countries for companies including Royal Bank of Scotland and Australia and New Zealand Banking Group.

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