Sentient AI: Already Here, or Impossible to Say?

Artificial Intelligence is taking our society and our technology in many different directions. Advances in healthcare, ecommerce, and entertainment are manifold—and the markets for Smart devices and IoT devices (already multi-billion dollar industries) are expanding every year. 

As AI reaches more aspects of daily life, we’re likely to see more concerns, and excitement, about what it means for AI to be truly sentient. 

In fact, some have announced that sentient AI is already here. 

But what does ‘sentience’ mean, for humans or for computers? How can something programmed by humans be capable of thoughts or feelings? And what are the ramifications of developing technology that we believe to be sentient? 

Definitions and tests: 

Merriam-Webster’s first definition of ‘sentient’ is “responsive to or conscious of sense impressions,” and the second definition is “aware.” The ambiguity and abstraction around these concepts—sentience, consciousness, awareness—is one of the reasons that pinning down Sentient AI is challenging. 

Giandomenico Iannetti, a professor of neuroscience at University College London, has posed similar questions: 

What do we mean by ‘sentient’? [Is it] the ability to register information from the external world through sensory mechanisms? Or the ability to have subjective experiences? Or the ability to be aware of being conscious, to be an individual different from the rest?

Researchers looking to answer questions of life and intelligence in machines also of course employ the Turing test. Designed to discern intelligence in a computer, a Turing test requires that a human should be “unable to distinguish the machine from another human being by using the replies to questions put to both.” 

But the Turing test might be outdated, 70+ years on from its inception. In the past decades various AIs have passed the Turing test.  But Ianneti regards the test as something that “makes less and less sense.” Essentially, we’ve gotten good enough at creating machines that emulate emotion to deceive ourselves. 

Humans anthropomorphize machines all the time, but may be failing to realize that sentience is something deeper, something further—potentially related to having feelings (not just being able to copy or emulate them in interactions) which may also be related to having a body.

If a machine can convince a person of its intelligence or its ability to feel, it’s not proof that it can do either of those things. It’s merely proof of the machine’s ability to pretend…which is incredible in and of itself. 

So incredible, in fact, that it might just be real.

Earlier in 2022, a Google engineer shot to viral fame because he claimed that their AI chatbot “LaMDa” was truly intelligent, and sentient.

According to press briefings, Blake Lemoine was testing Google’s conversational AI machine to see if it produced hate speech, but during his conversations with LaMDA (short for Language Model for Dialogue Applications), he began to believe that it was fully sentient. According to the Guardian, he “published transcripts of these conversations in June and was fired on July 22 for breaching Google’s confidentiality agreement.” 

In interviews and reports after Lemoine’s dismissal, Google has repeatedly stated the claims are unfounded, saying that “LaMDA has been internally reviewed over ten times.”  

In order to approach the conversation of sentient AI with rigor and intention, it would help to establish some semantic agreements about what sentience means, for humans, animals, fungi, and machines. So, where do you stand? What would it take to convince you that a computer felt scared that it was going to be turned off some day? 

September 26, 2022
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Emotional Artificial Intelligence… Requires Emotional Intelligence

Three key perspectives on Emotional AI and why you should be aware of them

What if your phone could send you a notification when you were becoming anxious, before you’d even realized it? 

Or what if you could scan your toddler’s face and understand that they were nervous? 

Emotional AI is a field that questions what it means to have feelings, what it means to emote, and in essence, what it means to be human. 

In today’s digital world we are already communicating through screens—whether Zoom calls, Snapchat, or text messages. It’s common for mistakes to happen, for tone to be lost and for context to be missing. And while communication issues can arise in person as well as digitally, emotional AI is the field that allows us to ask: what if it could all be optimised? 

What is Emotional Artificial Intelligence?

Sometimes just called Emotion AI, or affective computing, Emotional AI is a subset of AI, the goal of which is to measure, understand, simulate, and react to human emotions.

Machines programmed to have this kind of ‘emotional intelligence’ are trained to learn from patterns in cognition as well as emotion. The goal is for the machine having the ability to “detect, interpret, and respond appropriately to both verbal and nonverbal signals”. To provide a machine with accurate information, images, videos, and audio recordings are used as input, along with recognition systems. As more data is input, the machines ‘learn’ to both recognize and interpret subtleties in facial expression and voice intonation. 

In some projects, researchers are also working with parameters such as skin temperature and heart rate, which provide additional data points for identifying emotional response. 

At the moment, humans still absolutely have the upper hand when it comes to detecting and identifying emotions—but machines are improving quickly. Modern technology has the advantage of being able to process vast amounts of data, with a lot of detail, very quickly. For example, a computer might be able to identify micro expressions in millions of photographs, or listen to thousands of recordings of the human voice with different inflections. 


A change in perspective.

For humans, the drive to understand emotion is often part of a daily experience, and studies have shown that socialization and communication are crucial parts of child development. But with Emotional AI, the perspective on how and why we value emotions might change. Researchers have presented solutions and ideas for how Emotional AI might fit into our society—but some of them may have more repercussions than we realize. Here are three uses and perspectives to consider: 

  1. Marketing – Digital marketers and decision makers will know already that emotions play a huge role in the customer journey. From a sales and advertising perspective, understanding how a user might be feeling is the juiciest information out there. The ability to distinguish a frustration, desire, or pain point means marketers can build sales funnels that soothe frustration, satisfy desires, and relieve pain points with their products and services. Emotional AI has the potential to transform the e-commerce space dramatically by identifying micro expressions by using the footage captured by a customer’s smartphone or webcam, and correlating that data with the action the customer takes (like buying the product or sharing a link). And if you’re wondering when this technology is going to be around—look no further. It’s been on the market for the last decade. 
  2. Assistive Services – A broad category of projects and research, Assistive Services refers to products that can improve a human experience. For Emotional AI, this might mean training exercises for people with neurodivergencies that make it easier for them to identify emotion, or express it themselves. Other technologies can help with healthcare—for example, identifying those who need mental health assistance.

    Technologies in this category are also being used in the automotive industry, where interactions based on driver emotions and reactions could increase road safety. By measuring aspects of emotion like blood pressure, voice volume, and microexpressions, smart cars could be built to have reactive controls. Reminding drivers to relax or re-focus could help decrease road rage, keep distracted drivers alert, or remind sleepy drivers to take a break.

  3.  Ethics – while there are no definitive answers, everyone has at one time questioned what is ethical about AI, and what makes us uncomfortable. As the industry grows, and Emotional AI takes its place in popular technology, philosophers and psychologists are asking questions about privacy, ethical use, and potential impacts. CCTV cameras enable retail stores to record customer reactions to products, prices, etc. in real time and thereby improve their range and pricing, and take the information to their advertising campaigns as well. Being recorded without knowledge or permission is one conversation, but emotional AI also requires us to think about whether or not we are comfortable with companies leveraging the information they have about us. What’s your limit? 

While Emotional AI is a constantly-expanding field, bear in mind that technology may only be as good as its programmer. To identify emotions—based on facial expressions, voice inflections, or some kind of incommunicable level of empathy, programmers need to have extremely high emotional intelligence themselves. Self-reported data is used heavily in emotional AI as well, and it’s not always as accurate as the reportees might think. 

When we approach technology from the point of view that we can help others, increase empathy, and solve problems, the world opens up to us. Emotional AI is a rich realm of multidisciplinary research with potential for wonderful solutions. 

If you’re looking for an out-of-the-box solution, Cloutel just might have it. Ready to explore with us? 

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The Endless Possibilities of Virtual Reality

From theme parks to operating rooms, Virtual Reality is technology through which we can open our own minds to new joy, new learning, and new worlds. 

Virtual Reality (VR) is a type of simulated experience that allows users to enter digital experiences, usually by wearing a headset with a small screen in front of a user’s eyes. The digital worlds can be replicas of reality, or completely different from anything humans experience. It’s a place of endless opportunity, expanding as far as the imagination can reach. 

This day and age, VR has entered mainstream culture—primarily through entertainment avenues, particularly video games. In other industries, it’s also being used for education, business, training exercises, and other practical angles. VR, with its manifold applications, has become a multi-billion dollar industry, with projections for incredible growth. 

Generally speaking, in most VR worlds, realistic images, sounds and other sensations that simulate a user’s physical presence in a virtual environment are generated. A person using VR is able to move their head and body and have the movement mirrored in the virtual world in real time. As mentioned, individual headsets with small screens are the most common way to encounter VR, but it’s also used in spaces where multiple larger screens can be accommodated.

Over the past three decades, VR technology and opportunities have steadily entered mainstream retail stores. Commercial tethered headsets by Oculus (Rift), HTC (Vive) and Sony (PlayStation VR) prompted application development in the 2010’s and beyond. 

Some Exciting Directions


The uses for VR in entertainment abound. VR-enhanced video games are increasing in availability and popularity by the week. VR film has been used for sporting events, fine art, music videos and—no surprises here—pornography. And roller coasters and theme parks have incorporated VR to match visual effects with other types of sensory feedback, so that customers can enjoy a spray of water at the same time they appear to be plunging into a thrilling waterfall—or plummet into a scene from Harry Potter. 

Psychology and Therapy 

In social sciences and psychology, VR presents a whole host of possibilities, particularly because it offers a physically safe place to explore mentally and socially difficult scenarios, in a hyper-controlled environment. It’s also a cost-effective tool in many situations, as exact scenarios can be replicated repeatedly, leading to better scientific parameters for studies. 

VR can be used as a form of therapeutic intervention—for example, in VR Exposure Therapy (VRET).  Therapies in VRET can be used for treating disorders like post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and various phobias.

Even more recently, social VR tools are also being applied to help individuals struggling to process grief trauma. Digital recreations of deceased individuals can be created and interacted with in a specific environment, a project intended to facilitate adaptive mourning. A recent South Korean documentary revealed the possible process and reactions to an experience like this—and it drew wildly mixed reactions from across the planet.


Happily, VR has taken a welcome place in healthcare, especially in cases of training and in surgery. In fact, simulated VR operations were first developed in the 1990s, for the sake of cost-effective and low-stakes practices. Operations can be ‘performed’ over and over again, and also be paused and discussed if and when trainees make mistakes. 

Business and Education 

Many digital initiatives were shifted into a reality when pandemic-fueled lockdowns swept the globe in early 2020. Especially for business and education organizations, prioritizing digital methods of working and learning became top-priority. In the case of education, VR has been used to create immersive experiences for students, providing insight into historical moments in new ways. Viewing manuscripts, rare texts and artifacts, or exploring archeological dig sites are just a sample of the possible projects. 

Some public libraries have begun keeping VR technology and headsets available to their patrons, which may be a first step into making this technology more available. 

And many companies are looking to VR to provide ways of making digital life exciting, novel, and immersive in a way that face-to-screen life hasn’t always been. 

If you’re having ideas about your own industry, or starting to think about applications of VR—you’re in the right place. Cloutel can help you bring your ideas to life. 

9:02 am
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Artificial Intelligence: Fears, Fun… and the Future?

A brief introduction into AI

Just those two letters, AI, can conjure up visualizations of some of the wildest technology. What do you picture when you hear them? 

Often, AI makes people think of robots—humanoid, curious, and perhaps capable of acts and thoughts. But in reality, what Artificial Intelligence means is expansive: a category of machines and technology that do everything from help recommend Netflix shows as well as drive cars and make art. 

AI is already part of our daily lives, even if we don’t know it. 

Here, we’ll delve into some contemporary uses of AI, and explain how they prompt fears, a sense of fun, and how many AI systems are already taking their place in the future of technology. 

What is AI?

Simply put, Artificial Intelligence refers to systems that are built to mimic human intelligence, especially a capacity for learning from the past in order to come to informed decisions. Yes, some robots are programmed with AI capabilities, but not all of them. Chatbots, facial recognition, self-driving cars, and disease mapping applications do however use AI—and you’ve likely encountered those in your daily life. 

Important foundational technologies make up AI, including machine learning (ML), deep learning, and natural language processing (NLP). These are all separate from, but integral to, the concept of AI. 

One core component of many AI projects is efficiency: developers use it to streamline tasks that take much more time when handled manually. Talking with thousands of customers, organizing patterns of behavior, and combating common problems in an industry are all reasons to create AI-based solutions. 


Why are people scared of AI?

The reality is that we are already living in a world full of AI, and using it in our daily lives. In fact, on the occasions that technology we now expect to be “smart” isn’t (like if the automatic customer service bot doesn’t “understand” your request) we might experience frustration. 

So it’s a natural question: why are users skeptical about AI as a concept, as well as downright afraid of a robot takeover? 

Fear of the unknown, combined with some media-led misinformation, have stoked concerns around AI. There is a general anxiety about mass unemployment (based on the sense that human labor will be replaced by automation), as well as about the idea of AI falling into ‘the wrong hands.’ 

Movies like 2001: A Space Odyssey and even Terminator have perpetuated an idea about what happens if the machines become “too smart” and become uncontrollable, forming a SuperIntelligence that humans can no longer compete with. 

On one hand, a fear of the unknown is reasonable: we don’t know what will happen in the next decades as far as AI technology goes—but on the other hand, we’ve never known. 

What about the Fun?

Fortunately, AI is also a rich field for creative projects, not just automation tools built for data management. There are a multitude of games, art and poetry projects. There are also boundary-breaking tools that allow a user to bring a photograph of a deceased relative “alive” — and some experiments like these have caused an amazing amount of joy to those using them. 

Some AI-driven tools like Roombas are anthropomorphized (we give them names and make them characters in memes), while still others are even more specifically built to play off existing desires and emotions, even becoming like their owners.

Further into a realm of what might feel like Sc-Fi, there are many exciting questions about our potential to upload our own minds to a computer, following the hubristic human reach towards immortality. 

A Future Full of AI

AI is a topic containing multitudes, and it’s also a bountiful realm of business opportunities and possible solutions for any industry: cybersecurity, healthcare, linguistics—the list goes on. 

Almost every field has access to more data than they know what to do with, and AI is a way to analyze massive data sets, train them to predict with astounding accuracy, and present solutions we’ve never dreamed of. 

Wondering what the possibilities are for your company? Get in touch with Cloutel and let us architect the future. 

8:55 am
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The Metaverse: A universe within a universe?

A short investigation of the Metaverse, and what it can be

The term ‘metaverse’ is deceivingly simple.

The three-syllable word, first coined by Neal Stephenson in his 1992 novel ‘Snow Crash,’ has evolved to describe a futuristic realm of technology, a digital experience that is all-encompassing. 

The context, history, present, and predicted future of the metaverse is a rich field, bringing us all the way from Ancient Greek to Facebook, and from deep-dives into Sci-Fi to XR (extended reality). 

Here, we’ll take you through some of the more basic concepts of the metaverse, while also pointing out the landscape of possibilities it encompasses. 


What is the metaverse? (And where is the metaverse?)

‘Metaverse’ is a word composed of Greek parts. The word ‘meta’ itself means “among, with, after,” but in English it’s used to “describe a subject in a way that transcends its original limits, considering the subject itself as an object of reflection.” 

So, a metaverse may be understood through this lens: it’s a world contained within a world, a universe that has transcended its original limits.

In theory, it’s an endless, global, connected digital world, composed of a combination of shopping, work, social media, gaming, and many other possibilities that mirror how we currently live our physical lives. Being able to interact with people and items in a digital universe is less mind-blowing than it used to be, because many of the technologies already exist. 

In reality, the metaverse is happening all around us. There is not one shared definition, but you might begin to think of it as the internet brought to life, or at least rendered in three dimensions and intended to be experienced through augmented and virtual reality technologies. Instead of just looking at a screen, the metaverse is a virtual environment in which you can have lived experiences.

Recent Developments

In October of 2021, there was an uptick in recent interest around the metaverse because of Facebook’s rebrand to ‘Meta’ which was in direct reference to a pivot Mark Zuckerberg intended to make towards a wider scope of products and possibilities. Meta Platforms, known as Meta for short, still is a conglomeration of Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, but also includes more recent tech like Quest VR headsets and the Horizon VR platform. 

Experts are split about the definitions and the likely evolution of a truly immersive ‘metaverse.’ They expect augmented- and mixed-reality enhancements will become more useful in people’s daily lives in the next two decades, and include opportunities for entertainment and commerce in many directions.

Virtual reality and augmented reality are already proving to be exciting fields for many industries, from healthcare to shopping, so it’s not a leap to conclude that XR technology and the manifold uses for it will expand rapidly, in directions we can’t currently comprehend. 

Excitement—and concern?

If you’re concerned about security within the metaverse, you’re not alone. Companies including Meta/Facebook have certainly had their share of cybersecurity—and sociopolitical—issues. 

It’s important to carry our concerns with us as we collectively move forward into a XR/VR world, but there are manifold ways AI and AR based technologies can help communities solve problems and improve health and happiness. At the moment, there aren’t rules to what is considered to be “inside the metaverse,” whether the experience is virtual clothing or Fortnite-based concerts. 

The future is in fact ours to build.

The metaverse is on the brink of moving from theoretical to actualized, and companies looking to stay at the forefront of their industry would be wise to stay engaged. AI-driven and experiential solutions can drive customer engagement, build brand loyalty, and help organizations plan for a Gen-Z inspired future. 

Want to learn more about the Metaverse? Contact Cloutel today. 

8:15 am
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Augmented Reality: Ready for Launch

How AR is Primed for Use in Any Industry

It’s becoming more and more difficult to wrap our minds around just how much the world has changed in the past twenty years. Surrounded by tech of all types, inspiring and instantaneous tools feel commonplace—from laser surgery to Pokémon Go. 

Our collective drive for novelty and for efficiency—major factors in the constant invention of new technologies and new applications of existing tools—remain strong. As the ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic settle, it’s become clear that many aspects of digital life are here to stay. 

But Augmented Reality (AR) is a body of technology that many industries are just beginning to explore—and it’s a rich arena.

In essence, augmented reality is an interactive combination of a real environment and virtual components, where the objects that reside in the real world can be enhanced by digital information. This might include multiple types of sensory data; currently the most commonly applied is visual information. 

The key aspect of AR is that the combination of real and virtual worlds can happen accurately and in real time. Whether the information is a visual overlay of virtual furniture in a real home,  or a masking of an office to appear as a cockpit of a plane for flight training, the experience is intended to be immersive. Augmented reality is the process of altering a user’s perception by changing aspects of reality (while, comparatively, Virtual Reality (VR) completely replaces reality with a simulation). 

AR is already being used in many industries, with manifold results:


In archeology, researchers have been able to reconstruct city walls, and walk through a dig site as if buildings were still standing. In other educational landscapes, AR is being used for digital learning, allowing students to experience augmented classrooms, and experience simulations of historical events and places. 


Perhaps the most mainstream place consumers are beginning to encounter AR in a normalized way is in their very own smartphones. Apps like Snapchat and Instagram offer customizable bitmojis you can dance with in your video, and games like Pokemon Go allow users to walk around and interact with characters in their local environment. But in the wider sphere, AR gaming devices are becoming more and more available as well. 


In the vast world of healthcare, applications for AR are practically limitless. AR glasses can be used to deliver information to surgeons without interrupting an operation; immersive memory-based experiences can be used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder and phobias. Procedures can be ‘tested’ before they are actually performed, reducing the risk of mistakes. From the training labs to the operating table, AR is a welcome addition to healthcare tech. 

And perhaps the most encompassing field is commerce.

One of the many knock-on effects of the pandemic has been a marked increase in online shopping of all kinds. With AR, retail companies can provide consumers with a better, more personal experience, without leaving home. Clothing companies can provide virtual try-ons, and homewares stores can let you test out paint colors or furniture placement before you renovate your home. 

The practical ways AR is entering our daily life are numerous and varied, too. AR can be delivered in a public way, where someone is using a smartphone in a public space, or in a more private sense, where the user might be sitting at a computer, or even wearing a headset. 

Some questions remain. 

Why are so many industries primed to include AR? What are the yet-unexplored benefits?

The answer in some ways is straightforward, cross-industry: it’s all about engagement. 

In a crowded and competitive digital marketplace—whether academic or entertainment—getting a user into an immersive, exciting AR experience means you can engage them on multiple levels. Whether you’re teaching someone how to fly a jet or showing them what they look like with a new hair color, bringing them in with AR is highly effective. 

We are just beginning to scratch the surface of the myriad possibilities for AR. If you’re looking for exciting solutions for the problems in your project, get in touch. 

We can help you engineer the future. 

7:41 am
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