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June 23, 2023

The Breakthrough of Technology and the Near Future of Human

"NEO PORTRAITS", a short film expressing the coexistence of innovation and ideal lifestyle

Image: "NEO PORTRAITS,", a short film expressing the coexistence of innovation and ideal lifestyle

Academy Awards® accredited international short film festival,Short Shorts Film Festival & Asia 2023, was held from June 6, 2023 under the project theme "UNLOCK". A short film "NEO PORTRAITS" was born from the project.

The project began with the event "NTT presents International Conference for visualizing our future brought about by technological innovation feat. IOWN" held at the 2022 Film Festival. The event was attended by experts from a wide range of fields, and discussions were held on technological innovation and human life, inspired by the "IOWN Concept" that NTT is promoting together with various companies. Inspired by this discussion, many short film projects were submitted from filmmakers around the world, and "NEO PORTRAITS" was selected from among those submissions. "NEO PORTRAITS" depicts technological innovation and the human mind, and has already been released worldwide.

NTT presents International Conference for visualizing our future brought about by technological innovation feat. IOWN. other window

A Visualization of What Life Will Be Like in the Near Future!

Image: A Visualization of What Life Will Be Like in the Near Future!

The setting of "NEO PORTRAITS" is a little further in the future. It depicts a near-future landscape that evokes a future with various technological innovations such as "IOWN. For example, when the protagonist, a junior high school student wakes up in the bed in the morning, the temperature, date, and time are automatically displayed around the ceiling. With the widespread use of devices that are linked to the nervous system, many people may be surprised by this everyday scenery. In a junior high school, the center of the stage, desks and chairs are lined up in a regular fashion, and a teacher stands in front of a blackboard, facing his students. It looks like a familiar scene, but there is something a little strange about it. This is because there are no textbooks or notebooks on the desks, only tablets. When the teacher holds up a book and introduces it to the students, they gasp as if they are seeing it for the first time.

Can AI Fill the Gaps in the Human Mind?

Image: Can AI Fill the Gaps in the Human Mind?

In the film, the mother, who is supposed to be dead, appears as an AI android. The family members talk to the mother's AI android as if she continues to live, even though she is no longer in this world. While we look forward to the new technology that will fill our great sense of loss, we are also afraid that we may lose our human-like feelings of pain. Even if technology evolves, it can make us go in the right or wrong direction, depending on how we use it. Even if we know this, we cannot escape from the fundamental question, "Can humans and technology coexist? We have been able to lead comfortable lives thanks to technological innovations in the past. As the times are changing dramatically with the advent of Chat-GPT and the implementation of the IOWN concept, many people will be moved by the message of this film and will have an opportunity to rethink the ideal coexistence of technological innovation and a humane life. It is to be believed that this film will provide an opportunity for people to rethink about the ideal coexistence of technological innovation and human life.

In the link below, you can see "NEO PORTRAITS", which depicts cutting-edge technology and the human mind.
For more information about the Short Film Festival, click here. other window

Film Festival in 3D Space Anytime, Anywhere

Image: Film Festival in 3D Space Anytime, Anywhere

Image: Film Festival in 3D Space Anytime, Anywhere

The "DOOR" Theater, an online 3D space, which was held as the first SSFF & ASIA attempt in 2021 will be held again this year, supported by NTT QONOQ. DOOR" is a virtual space platform provided by NTT QONOQ that allows visitors to watch the world's best short films that have won awards at film festivals around the world, including this year's Academy Award nominated film "Midwinter Tram Driver" and "NEO PORTRAITS" in a virtual space cinema. NEO PORTRAITS" in a virtual cinema space.
DOOR Theater Link: other window

This service/effort is one of the NTT XR (Extended Reality) initiatives, an XR* service brand developed by NTT Group.

*XR is a generic term for advanced technologies such as VR (virtual reality), AR (augmented reality), and MR (mixed reality).

Interview with Junji Watanabe, Senior Distinguished Researcher: The future seen through "NEO PORTRAITS"

We interviewed with Mr. Junji Watanabe, a leading researcher on wellbeing at NTT, about the future envisioned in the short film "NEO PORTRAITS". Mr. Watanabe also participated as one of the experts in "NTT presents International Conference on Visualizing the Future through Technological Innovation feat. IOWN.

Interview from...

Junji Watanabe, Senior Distinguished Researcher of NTT Communication Science Laboratory

Since joining the company, he has been conducting research on communication from the perspective of human information sciences. In particular, he is exploring methodologies to foster empathy and trust between people through the sense of touch to realize a wellbeing society.

What are your impressions of the short film "NEO PORTRAITS"?( other window

Mr. Watanabe:
 Above all, I found the project itself to be very interesting. Unlike science fiction novels and films, the impact of this project was very strong because it focused on a familiar episode and a technology in a compact form of a 20-minute short film. I felt that the impact of the film was very strong.

In the behind the scenes video ( other window), the actors were asked not only how they felt about their roles in the film, but also questions like "What kind of future would you like to see?", and "What moment did you feel convenient or happy with the recent technology?". It was interesting to see the actors' answers to these questions, which served as honest feedback on the technology they simulated themselves.

In the film, the protagonist's deceased mother appears as an AI android (a being whose mother's picture is framed and who speaks with a natural facial expression). What was your impression?

Mr. Watanabe:
When thinking about "What technology will bring to our future", I felt that it would be easier to think about "How the future technology will be accepted by people" if it were shown in the form of film, as it was this time. In other words, if the future of technology is explained without a story, it may be difficult to grasp the concept.

How do you see AI android from the perspective of "Self-as-We" (the view of self-proposed by Dr. Yasuo Deguchi of Kyoto University: Self as We, other window), which is NTT's basic concept for a sustainable society? How should we view it?

Mr. Watanabe:
 In the film, the protagonist is shown to be conflicted at first about how to accept the existence of his mother's AI android. I believe that a person should have an existence that is important to them, in this case their blood related mother, and that such existence should be irreplaceable and unique. Which meant the special existence and the protagonist were "We"(us). However, when it was replaced by an AI android that only imitated her voice and facial expressions and it could not be seen as "We".

Can you talk a little more about the fact that it is not perceived as "We"?

Mr. Watanabe:
 While he had been living as "We", feeling intimacy and trust with his mother, her presence suddenly disappeared. He has tried to fill this gaping hole with an AI android and continue the "We" as it has always been, which is why something strange has happened. When we think of human beings as living organisms, each human being is irreplaceable and cannot be replaced by another being. In this sense, it is natural to feel uncomfortable.
 On the other hand, humans are also social beings. We live our lives while interacting with various beings as "We". And the "We" is also dynamically changing, being born again, changing form, disappearing, and so on.
 What was interesting was the last scene of the film. The protagonist says, "The AI android is not my mother herself," to which the AI android itself replies, "I think so, too". The answer was impressive. From that, the protagonist must have understood that the AI android is a social agent that behaves exactly like the person, but is completely different from the original person. I thought that the protagonist may have been the catalyst for accepting the AI agent as an agent that constitutes the new "We".

It is interesting that he is able to accept her when he sees her as a different being, not exactly the same being as their deceased mother. Next, could you tell us what you felt from the perspective of wellbeing, which is the subject of your research, Mr. Watanabe?

Mr. Watanabe:
 In everyday life, as people continue to interact with each other, we begin to see what is important to them. Eventually, I believe that this will lead to the "personality" of the person. In the film, one of the themes is the "personality" of the AI android, but in my research on wellbeing, the values that a person holds dear are also important.
 For example, in my research on wellbeing, I have developed a tool called "Our Wellbeing Card" ( Open other window) to visualize and share the values of wellbeing and what is important for each person's wellbeing.
 Each of the 32 cards describes the psychological factors that contribute to a person's sense of wellbeing and is divided into the categories of I ("I"), We ("WE"), Everyone ("SOCIETY"), and Everything ("UNIVERSE"). From these cards, you choose three cards that are important to your wellbeing and share the factors and reasons for your choice with the people around you. The three cards can be combined in various ways, and the combination of the three cards can be called "the personality of the person. Perhaps the more strongly the values of the deceased's wellbeing are reflected in the AI android, the more "personal" it will be.

Image: Our Wellbeing Card

Mr. Watanabe, you have also done research ( other window) on tactile transmission and making it possible to touch various things, such as a heartbeat. Is there a possibility to integrate tactile transmission technology with AI android?

Mr. Watanabe:
 Of course, technically, it is possible to integrate tactile transmission and AI. However, I think it is necessary to separate the positive and negative effects. I believe that the presence of AI, or rather, its influence on people's behavior will increase. On the other hand, that greater influence also means greater power of control. The ability to do only what the AI indicates, or the lack of choice, will lead to a loss of human freedom and abandonment of wellbeing. I would love to see how society will change when tactile transmission and AI are combined in a sequel.

Finally, if you have a vision of what the future will look like with the advancement of technology, would you please share it with us?

Mr. Watanabe:
 Technology has so far expanded human capabilities and has been more or less useful for human beings. At the same time, we need to pay more and more attention to whether it is ensuring the "good way of being" for each and every person, which is different for each and every one of us. A future in which there is one ideal of wellbeing that everyone must follow is a rather constricted world.
 The "good way to be" is different for each individual, and it is not the end of the story if only that person thinks it is good. "Good" is determined by the relationships with the people and society around us, and technology is important to broaden the options for those relationships.

Thank you very much for your valuable talk today!

The International Short Shorts Film Festival & Asia, one of the largest short film festivals in Asia and accredited by the U.S. Academy Awards, is celebrating its 25th anniversary with the theme "UNLOCK" from June 6, 2023! other window