Next generation search engine? Virtual human

27 Feb 2023

In the development process of industries such as PC, AI and the Internet, search engines have always played a pivotal role. For ordinary users, the greatest significance of the Internet is the massive amount of information at their fingertips. From the initial text search only, to now many competing products keep pace with each other, and the search scope has gradually developed to support image search, combined image and text search, and even face search, which only existed in sci-fi movies in the past, and Internet of Things entity search etc. are gradually moving from theory to reality. It can be said that the development of search engines, to a large extent, represents the development of Internet-related industries. Now that new eras such as Web3 and metaverse are about to emerge, who can accurately explain what the next generation of search engines will look like? In my humble opinion, digital virtual humans may be, or even replace, search engines. The following is a brief overview and explanation of the possible futures of the two.

The past and present of the two

Since the popularization of PC and the Internet, and the penetration of informatization into all aspects of human society, the demand for search engines has also emerged soon. Moreover, with the development of AI and other related industries, the search results are increasingly rich and accurate, and even derivative products such as hot searches and hot search lists have appeared. It can be said that information is surrounding human society and civilization from two dimensions of breadth and depth. At the same time as the industry develops, human beings are increasingly dependent on information and search engines. Now it is difficult to recall what the Internet was like before the birth of Google, Yahoo, and Bing. If one day these products are suddenly stopped without warning, what kind of results will be unimaginable. To be conservative, it is estimated that it will cause a large area of ​​society to be paralyzed.

With the development from Web1 to Web2, Internet products are becoming more abundant than ever, and digital virtual humans are gradually attracting attention. The digital virtual human is called VTuber in foreign countries, and it began to appear in movies in 2002. Later, virtual idols, have verified the feasibility of this development idea, and the image has gradually become closer to the people.

The combination of the development of the two

One of the major pursuits of search engines is immediacy and the completeness of search results, which is also the expectation of users and the market. Voice search is now ubiquitous, and voice is one of the functions pursued by virtual humans. Then build a huge database or real-time search function for the virtual human, then connect to the Internet, and then add the AI ​​simulation learning function, the virtual human professional consultant may not be far away. Of course, this is just an assumption, and it may not be smooth sailing in the next few years. There are currently two issues that can be clarified:

  • At present, digital humans generally still have very obvious traces of AI, and users cannot get effective feedback on emotional expression.
  • The user will leave after searching, and will not stay in the voice search scene to explore other playable functions.

Based on such dilemmas, some domestic virtual human companies have suggested that the combination of virtual human and search engines needs to meet at least the following three points:

  • Building partner cognition: Strengthen the cognition of "AI partners" and stimulate users' voice search behavior.
  • Satisfy emotional interaction: Improve the emotional interactive experience of voice search scenarios to meet user expectations.
  • Enhance immersion experience: Create searchable, interactive, controllable, customizable and other immersive voice search scenarios.

Bring science fiction into reality or be beaten back to its original form by reality?

Indeed, the future of virtual humans is very imaginative, and it is not out of reach to replace search engines with virtual humans. Although traditional tools are easy to use, they are difficult to meet the diverse demands of users. People's senses are also extending from real space to virtual space. Voice assistants and virtual people are gradually improving our lives, and voice search is no longer just a traditional tool for information input and result output. The introduction of AI can make search more intelligent, and gradually have the same thinking, expression, emotion and learning ability as human beings. While satisfying people's higher-level emotional demands, it can also make search easier and more interesting. Scenes that were only in science fiction movies in the past are gradually being realized, which is indeed worth looking forward to.

But is everything really that easy? In the middle of the last century, when AI first started to develop, three theoretical models were proposed. Modern AI is usually the product of the combined development of the three. But the three models are not perfect. Among them is a "logic AI", which is based on the cognitive premise that "all human behaviors conform to a certain logic". Now many voice assistants can see the application of this model. The key question arises on this premise, because actual life experience tells us that not all human behaviors have logic at all, how should the excess be expressed? Not to mention making them into mathematical models, writing them into code, and teaching AI. To give the simplest example, it is not uncommon for voice assistants to have smooth conversations with humans, but has anyone seen one who can speak inverted sentences? I just asked Siri "Can you say inverted sentences?" After thinking for a few seconds, it said, "Well, why don't you ask something else", which shows that it doesn't understand what "inverted sentences" are. The reason for the hierarchy may be that there are no inverted sentences in its database. Siri is already a leader among voice assistants, and even if it has this kind of problem, the performance of other similar products can be imagined. The reason is very simple. An inverted sentence is the part of the content that exceeds the logic, or the content that cannot accurately describe the internal logic in language. In human behavior, there are many similar examples.

As mentioned above, the application of virtual humans in the future will gradually expand, and may also develop into products that replace search engines. The future is still worth looking forward to, but this process is bound to be full of thorns and ups and downs.

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