04/19/2024, 17.39
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TongTong, the 'little girl' created with artificial intelligence for a childless China

Developed by the Beijing Institute for General Artificial Intelligence, the humanoid has a "mental and value system” of “a 3- or 4-year-old girl" but could “grow" quickly with experience. Set to debut in a few days at the Zhongguancun Forum, her ability to relate to people is described as her strong point. She could play a role in seniors' care, an increasingly important issue in tomorrow’s China.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Wearing red shoes, pink trousers, and a white T-shirt, with a headband, TongTong can interact one-on-one with “daddy” and “mummy”, figuring out their intentions and performing tasks such as helping them clean the floor, wash a dirty rag, and turn on the TV.

Known also as little girl, the prototype of intelligent humanoid created by the Beijing Institute for General Artificial Intelligence (BIGAI) will make her official debut in Beijing next week (27 April) at the 2024 edition of the Zhongguancun Forum, China's foremost annual venue for new technologies.

The Global Times, the English-language tabloid of the People's Daily, the Communist Party's mouthpiece, had the opportunity to "meet" her recently, providing an accurate description of her.

TongTong is guided by two cognitive systems – the U system (capability) and the V system (value), which allow her to approach tasks in a unique manner, depending on her current state, which is evaluated across five dimensions: hunger, boredom, thirst, fatigue, and sleepiness.

“Her mental and value system is comparable to that of a 3- or 4-year-old child. As it continues to be developed and iterated, she will become more vivid, lively, and real, just like us humans. You will see if you come back at the end of this year or next year to experience it again," said BIGAI director Zhu Song-Chun.

Once the basic framework is set, similar to how a child's potential is developed and uncovered, TongTong's learning ability will accelerate, and in two or three years, she’ll probably progress from age three to 18, rather than 15 years, Zhu added.

BIGAI’S goal is for TongTong to complete tasks such as assisting humans in pouring tea and water and offering warm companionship in homes, as well as being performing multiple tasks in nursing homes.

The institute even envisages creating a TongTong "family" with grandparents, younger siblings, and friends from kindergarten.

Notwithstanding the questions that such an invention raises, including ethical ones, over the humanoid’s “human" traits, which have not yet been proven, the description provided by the Global Times is very suggestive in relation to the characteristics linked to personal relationships and care.

One senses the desire to touch a sensitive chord in Chinese society, that of people – now very few and not only because of the disastrous short-sighted, decades-long one-child policy – increasingly struggling to take care of elderly parents.

The emphasis on TongTong's astonishing emotional skills appears to offer a technological way to remove an increasingly serious social problem.

For their part, increasingly disillusioned, young Chinese seem to have no intention of listening to the Party's pressing calls to change course and have children.

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