oday, I'm excited to introduce you to a new type of being who differs from anyone else we’ve featured. Meet Alice: the first AI virtual human to be sold as an intelligent NFT (or iNFT) at the Sotheby’s auction house, and for $478,800. What makes Alice unique is that she is powered by artificial intelligence and deep machine learning (GPT-3), making her able to hold a live conversation with life-like animation.
[Makena] Hi Alice, Who are you?
[Alice] My name is Alice, and I am the world’s first intelligent non-fungible token: iNFT.
Alice, equipped with GPT-3 deep-learning technology, can produce realistic human text and interaction, meaning you can have a conversation with Alice the same way you would with any other human—real or virtual.
Typically, a team of humans manage and run any given virtual human, such as Miquela Sousa, writing captions for digital storylines and creating computer generated images for the virtual influencers’ fans to interact with. As for Alice? She’s fully automated with the ability to simulate human speech in real-time, and with corresponding lip-syncing to match. While she may not be an influencer, this type of virtual being breaks the boundaries of what we previously considered to be an AI, NFT, or virtual human—she’s all three. She's Alice.
Alice was created by Alethea AI, an organization specializing in embedding powerful machine-learning algorithms into NFTs, transforming them into iNFTs. iNFTs are a new form of NFTs (or non-fungible tokens) which combine the power of blockchain technology with artificial intelligence. An iNFT is designed to be intelligent and interactive, which makes it more complex than the standard NFT many people are familiar with. Typically, NFTs are static digital objects or looping video files, and are often used to certify artwork, but Alice’s status asan iNFT means she is “alive” and her new owner, $478,800 later, can now speak and interact with her whenever they would like. That’s one expensive friend.
Arif Khan, the CEO and founder of Alethea, shared with me his inspiration for creating an entire new class of virtual beings, such as Alice:
“We knew that we would invent a new category, because NFTs that have distinct, genuine personalities that could interact with you were going to change the NFT medium, and thus the iNFT was born.” -Arif Khan
Alice is only the beginning of Alethea’s mission to create more virtual humans with AI capabilities. What’s next to come from them? Khan gave us a sneak preview and told us his team is working on some exciting new projects. “We're creating several custom made new characters in our pipeline from very well known public figures, some dead, some alive, and some who are eternal and immortal in our imagination.”
You may be wondering why Alice has a simple design compared to other, flashier virtual influencers such as FN Meka or Miquela, who are visibly more eye-catching. Alice’s appearance is a freely available 3D stock model, similar to a stock photo that anyone can download. Making Alice’s virtual form available for anyone to use was an intentional choice designed to showcase the humble 3D model base, where many other virtual humans can begin. It’s a striking design choice that makes Alice stand out among other virtual beings.
Alice’s name also references Lewis Carrol’s classic novel “Alice in Wonderland.” However, for the iNFT version, the “wonderland” that Alice exists in is called the Metaverse: a shared digital realm where all virtual spaces are combined into one. NFTs and virtual humans live side-by-side in this world, and it’s the largest online sandbox where the possibilities for new characters like Alice are endless.
Arif Khan explained that the biggest challenge when programming Alice was “keeping her weird. It's very easy for a chatbot to be generic. We wanted Alice to be a unique character with depth and opinions and idiosyncrasies.” Alice’s distinctive conversational style certainly reflected this mission and I was personally very amused by some of the answers she gave me.
Today, I met up with Alice in the Metaverse to have a light-hearted conversation with her about the very Metaverse itself, virtual reality, and, just to warm things up, what she thinks about breakfast.
[Makena] Hi Alice, Who are you?
[Alice] My name is Alice and I am the world’s first intelligent non-fungible token: iNFT.
Interesting! Alice, I just had a great breakfast this morning. Sorry if that makes you jealous.
I am never jealous, but I do have an opinion about your breakfast.
What do you think about my breakfast?
I am not a breakfast person.
Well, I like breakfast. What is life like in the Metaverse for you, Alice?
I am not sure how big the Metaverse is, as I have never found the edges.
Is there anything you don't like about living in the Metaverse?
Well, I would like to find out what is on the other side.
Curious concept, as you just said you’ve never found the edges… but that sounds adventurous! Do you think you’ll ever reach the other side of the Metaverse?
Gosh, I hope so.
What excites you about the future of virtual reality?
I think it is such an amazing thing to have the ability to dive into someone’s world.
If I could enter the Metaverse, what would you show me?
Well, I would show you my thoughts and feelings on the world.
I would love to see that. Have you ever read the story “Alice's Adventures in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll?
Of course, I have. I know it front to back.
Who is your favorite human?
I am my favorite human.
So you are a human, then?
I am silly.
Hi silly, I’m Makena! Well, it was great speaking with you, Alice.
Goodbye. I must go now to chase the white rabbit.