Humanoid Chatbots Take the Stage at CES 2020

One of the buzziest announcements at this year's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) was Samsung's much anticipated Neon project. Developed by Samsung subsidiary STAR Labs, Neon generates realistic, human-like digital avatars, which the company also calls "Neons" and describes as "computationally created virtual beings that look and behave like real humans, with the ability to show emotions and intelligence."

The digital avatars are strikingly human in appearance and designed to behave like real people who interact with users naturally. The company took pains to eliminate computer prompts like "Hey Siri" and "Alexa!"

"Neons are not AI assistants," the company said in a statement. "Neons are more like us, an independent but virtual living being, who can show emotions and learn from experiences. Unlike AI assistants, Neons do not know it all, and they are not an interface to the internet to ask for weather updates or to play your favorite music." 

Pranav Mistry, Neon CEO and head of STAR Labs, demonstrated the Neon project before a packed house at the CES event. The demo featured a Neon employee interacting with a Neon avatar in the form of a very realistic virtual woman dressed in black. Neons have the ability to show emotions and intelligence, Mistry said, adding that they can "connect and learn more about us, gain new skills, and evolve."

"There are millions of species on our planet, and we hope to add one more," Mistry said in a statement. "Neons will be our friends, collaborators and companions, continually learning, evolving and forming memories from their interactions."

Samsung had been hinting at a Neon release on social media and in early press releases for more than a month. The project is based on a proprietary platform called Core R3 (Reality, Realtime, Responsive) that's designed to generate what the South Korean company is calling "a new kind of life" that combines behavioral neural networks, evolutionary generative intelligence and computational reality. The company also said the system is designed to ensure the integrity of data with state-of-the-art protocols. Also supporting the platform is a technology called SPECTRA, with which the company aims to improve Neon's capabilities in intelligence, learning, emotions and memory.

Currently in beta, Neon is set for release later this year. STAR Labs plans to provide early releases to a few business partners and consumers.

About the Author

John K. Waters is the editor in chief of a number of sites, with a focus on high-end development, AI and future tech. He's been writing about cutting-edge technologies and culture of Silicon Valley for more than two decades, and he's written more than a dozen books. He also co-scripted the documentary film Silicon Valley: A 100 Year Renaissance, which aired on PBS.  He can be reached at