This AI Startup Aims to Make a Digital Copy of Every Person in the World

“Oben,” in German means “above,” or to be on top. That, in a nutshell, is also the vision Nikhil Jain has for the AI startup ObEN, of which he’s CEO and co-founder. The company raised $5 million from a group led by Tencent this summer and has an ambition in keeping with the meaning of its name.

Nikhil is working to advance technology that gives ultimately everyone in the world — the famous, the infamous, the ordinary and everyone in between — a 3D avatar that looks and sounds like them. ObEN, in that scenario, would power an AI level that sits, in other words, “above” physical, face-to-face interactions, opening up a new way of interacting with technology. And each other.

“We believe every person in the world will eventually have their own copy,” Jain told BGR. “One that looks like them, talks like them — it’s not that far off. An AI-driven virtual copy that can be used by consumers like us in day-to-day applications. For example, my AI — my copy — can now sing better than me.”

All ObEN needs to do that is a selfie of you and a voice recording. Here’s a YouTube clip showing Nikhil on one side, and his ObEN-made virtual copy on the other:

From fake news, to fake me. That’s apparently where we’re headed in 2018, with ventures like ObEN and others that BGR has covered this year — like Canadian tech startup Lyrebird — that use voice- and face-copying to present a version of me saying whatever I want. Or a version of, well, someone else, saying almost anything I want.

Lyrebird, BGR noted earlier this year, requires you to give it about a minute of your speech. The program then analyzes your voice and reverse-engineers it into computerized vocals that can be made to say anything — and to sound exactly like you would if you were the one saying instead of a computer.

ObEN, which has raised $21.7 million, takes things even farther.

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SOURCE: BGR, Andy Meek