In the eternal struggle to invent new ways to slack off during work, technology remains our most powerful weapon. Right now, with so many people forced to work from home, this has become even clearer. If we’re going to find exciting, innovative ways to avoid having to do shit we really don’t want to do ourselves, computers present the best possible solution.
Enter the virtual Zoom twin, an invention by the Redpepper creative agency’s Matt Reed that, however imperfectly, shows it won’t be long now until we can just get our digital counterparts to take meetings for us.
In an article describing his creation, Reed explains that his “Zoombot” was inspired by having been bombarded with video meetings over the last few weeks of quarantined work from home. “In order to reclaim some of my precious time, I built a [digital twin] of myself that uses the latest in advanced AI Speech Recognition and Text-to-Speech to handle my Zoom meetings for me,” he writes.
Reed says he took a bunch of screenshots of himself sitting in front of a webcam then programmed an app that knows to listen to specific audio prompts and automatically answer them. The still images simulate “a bad connection” that allows the real, flesh-and-blood person to ditch their call and go do things like, as Reed suggests, “play with the birds in your backyard” or “stare at your dog.”
As the above video shows, Zoombot isn’t great at fooling other humans. We see Reed’s robo-self opening and closing its mouth like a busted animatronic, repeating the same phrases over and over in a stilted artificial voice, and butting in on conversations to say things like, “Is it too early for red wine? Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha.” Mostly, the bot just seems to freak out everyone else on the call.
Though it’s far from perfect, Reed has made his Zoombot’s code available for free in case anyone wants to spend a bunch of hours they would’ve used actually attending video meetings trying to improve a digital stand-in that’ll hang out making useless comments for them.
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