In what could be seen as an impressive achievement, a New Zealand-based startup called Soul Machines has successfully built a virtual chatbot that can not only portray human emotions, but also read their facial expressions.

According to the startup, their main aim behind creating Nadia, the chatbot, was to take the chatbot service to a whole new level by humanising the interaction between the man and the machine, and make them more like humans.

Soul Machines has termed Nadia’s capability of reading human facial expressions as its ’emotional intelligence’ or EI. The chatbot sees users through webcams and gets a better sense of their emotions, which helps it in making a connect with them on a more subtle emotional level.

The startup claims, just like Artificial Intelligence, even EI can learn through its experience. This means, the more the chatbot interacts with people, the better it gets at reading human emotions. If and when a user changes his facial expression or tone while talking to Nadia, she will instantly sense the change and adjust her answers in order to better suit the user’s current emotional state of mind.

Nadia has been developed especially for the Australian government to help them improve services for people with disabilities in the country. The chatbot can help its users in accessing the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and find the information they are looking as well as improve their experience of the system.

People with disabilities often have an unpleasant experience with the whole bureaucracy of NDIS due to its slowness and complexity. Nadia has been created so that people with disabilities can have a more human service available anytime and anywhere.

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Mark Sagar, CEO of Soul Machines, is the main brains behind making Nadia such a life-like chatbot. Sagar, who is also a professor at the University of Auckland, is a known name in animations industry and has won several accolades for his work over the years, including the prestigious academy award for his stupendous work on facial motion capture techniques in Avatar and King Kong.

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