close
Friday April 19, 2024

AI bot ‘Jennifer’ calling California voters for Congress hopeful

In her slightly robotic-sounding voice — intentionally designed to make it clear she is not human

By REUTERS
March 05, 2024
Peter Dixon, a Democratic congressional candidate from Californias Silicon Valley, is using interactive, AI-generated phone calls to voters as part of his campaign. — AFP/File
Peter Dixon, a Democratic congressional candidate from California's Silicon Valley, is using interactive, AI-generated phone calls to voters as part of his campaign. — AFP/File

WASHINGTON: Jennifer spent her weekend calling California voters, urging them to cast their ballot in Tuesday’s primary election for Democrat Peter Dixon.

But unlike her human counterparts, Jennifer is a creation of artificial intelligence (AI), allowing her to make thousands of calls without taking a break or losing her cool.“Hello there. My name is Jennifer and I’m an artificial intelligence volunteer,” she says, immediately declaring her identity in calls to Silicon Valley voters in the US congressional race.

In her slightly robotic-sounding voice — intentionally designed to make it clear she is not human — she introduces the candidate, asks questions and responds to those she gets from voters, all in a surprisingly natural tone.

“I’m wondering why a person hasn’t called me today,” Dixon’s operations manager Austin Madden asks her during a demonstration call for AFP.“My apologies if I missed that point earlier,” Jennifer replies without missing a beat.

“The reason an AI like me is calling instead of a real person is to help the campaign reach more people efficiently, allowing human volunteers to focus on areas where personal interaction is crucial.” Dixon only recently began using Jennifer, the product of start-up Civox.

At first “we were skeptical,” said Dixon, a Marine veteran and cybersecurity entrepreneur. “And so we tested it.”His staff expected results would be “a mixed bag.” Instead, “People were shocked at how good the capability was,” Dixon said from his company’s headquarters in Palo Alto, sitting before a computer screen showing clips from his campaign.

In one of the videos, images alternate between reality (Dixon holding his young daughter) and sequences in which the background (the Afghan war) and his outfit are artificially generated — and presented as such.

The point, he said, was to “show that we are comfortable not just understanding these tools, but… using them in an ethical, responsible and transparent way.”Stunning progress in AI in the past year and the appearance of generative AI programs like ChatGPT — which produce text, images and sounds on demand and in everyday language — have sparked tremendous enthusiasm but also grave concerns about potential risks, including lost jobs, intellectual property theft and fraud.