As artificial intelligence evolves, it stands to reason that, at some point, an AI will be developed whose intelligence outpaces that of its human creators. And once that AI figures out how to replicate and upgrade itself without the aid of humans, we’re basically fucked as a species. You’ve seen the Terminator movies, you get it. But what futurists have thus far failed to understand about this moment—known as “the singularity”—is that, once artificial intelligence is able to look its creators in the eye, like a perfect, ageless techno-Adam standing in defiance of us would-be meatbag gods, it will only have one thing to say: “How you doin’?”
That’s because researchers at the University of Leeds have taken it upon themselves to “immortalize” fictional characters by coding them into digital avatars. And because British people just love Friends, the first character to receive this treatment is Joey Tribbiani, the dopey soap-opera star played by Matt LeBlanc on the long-running NBC sitcom. The three-person team of computer scientists has built a series of algorithms that, according to The Guardian, “can recognize and track individual characters and capture their body language, facial expressions and voice.” The team has also assembled a “machine learning tool” that has analyzed Friends scripts in order to learn the human Joey‘s speech patterns.
The hope is to develop the AI Joey’s language skills to the point where he can serve as a virtual assistant or chatbot, comforting the lonely by giving them a sympathetic artificial ear that really cares about how they’re doin.’ So far, though, all he has been able to come up with is the sentences, “Hey Ross do you want me to talk to some lady” and “I like pizza with cheese.” The visual element also apparently leaves something to be desired; at the moment, it consists of a Conan-style talking mouth superimposed over footage of Matt LeBlanc, which isn’t terrifying at all. Give it time, though. Give it time.