Jamie, ANZ\u2019s new digital assistant, starts work this week to help customers with some of their general banking queries.\nThe avatar has been programmed to answer questions on 30 of the most frequently searched-for topics on the Help section of anz.co.nz.\n\u201cThrough the trial, we want to see if Jamie will appeal to those who might not be as comfortable using our other digital channels,\u201d says Liz Maguire, head of digital and transformation at ANZ Bank.\nNo caption\nWe\u2019re excited to show Jamie to more of our customers and get their feedbackLiz Maguire, ANZ Bank\nThe digital assistant was developed in partnership with Soul Machines, which has made a name globally in humanising artificial intelligence.\n\u201cOne of the things that is really exciting about this project is that we are starting to understand some of the benefits we can deliver for ANZ\u2019s customers,\u201d says Greg Cross, chief business officer at Soul Machines. \nThrough Jamie, customers can talk to somebody immediately, says Cross. \u201cIt\u2019s a personal interaction - it is a face-to-face interaction.\u201d\nANZ says Jamie is \u2018brought to life\u2019 using Soul Machines\u2019 Human Computing Engine (HCE) \u2013 a virtual nervous system that is modelled on the way the human brain and nervous system work. The HCE allows Jamie to express personality and character in a human-like way.\nANZ says initial feedback from staff and customers has been positive. Around 90 per cent of customers who have spoken to Jamie think it is a good idea for ANZ to introduce the technology.\n\u201cHow we move forward will be guided by what our customers and staff tell us,\u201d says Maguire. \u201cWe\u2019re excited to show Jamie to more of our customers and get their feedback.\u201d\n'What would Jamie say?'\nDon Whiteside, head of emerging technologies at ANZ, says initially, the team considered building a chatbot.\n\u201cBut after creating a few on various platforms we decided that although chatbots are a great way to provide byte sized pieces of information, they do not have the same immersive level as an emotionally intelligent solution,\u201d he says. \u201cThat is when we approached Soul Machines to see if they were interested in partnering with us to deliver a solution for sharing general banking information to ANZ\u2019s customers.\u201d\n\u201cHaving an AI engine means that Jamie can respond to human emotions, rather than just responding to questions,\u201d says Whiteside. \u201cIt provides for a more immersive experience than using a voice or typed chatbot.\u201d\nHaving an AI engine means that Jamie can respond to human emotions, rather than just responding to questionsDon Whiteside, ANZ\nHe says a member of their team, Kirstin Marcon, specifically writes the content for Jamie. Marcon has a background in filmmaking, and is experienced in writing scripts that portray believable characters.\n\u201cWhen we create content, we continually think, \u2018what would Jamie say?',\u201d says Whiteside. \u201cSo Jamie now has a very developed personality.\u201d\nHe says Jamie is very much in trainee mode, and even wears a trainee badge.\n\u201cWe train Jamie from the saved transcripts of conversations with customers. She doesn\u2019t learn autonomously yet as we don\u2019t want her to learn any bad habits,\u201d he says.\n\u201cJamie will keep learning from her interactions with customers. Likewise we will learn more about what customers find useful, and what areas can be improved.\u201d\nJamie has a human face, voice and expressions. Jamie can answer general questions and does not require any specific customer information.\nSidebar: When digital humans join the workforce\nANZ Bank is among the growing number of organisations deploying digital assistants to deal with common customer queries. \nAmong these is Air New Zealand, which introduced \u2018Sophie\u2019 at the US launch last year of its global marketing campaign. Sophie underwent training prior to the US launch, including teaching her about New Zealand and Air New Zealand, tweaking her Kiwi accent and perfecting her facial expressions.The airline's first foray into AI was through online chatbot Oscar to assist customers with commonly asked queries.\nAuckland Airport also deployed Vai, which stands for Virtual Assistant Interface (Vai), its 'digital' biosecurity officer.\u201cVai frees up our officers\u2019 time so they can deal with the really important aspects of their role,\u201d says Brett Hickman, detection technology officer at the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI).\nYou need to train them properly, make sure they know how to interact with people, and know the right answers to thingsDr Elinor Swery, Soul Machines\nDr Elinor Swery, solutions architect at Soul Machines, talks about the work that goes behind the development of digital humans.\n\u201cIt is a complete process, like employing a new person in your company,\u201d says Swery, who spoke on the topic at the IBM Think NZ in May.\n\u201cWhen we train these digital humans, we train them the same way we train people who represent our brands,\u201d says Swery. \u201cYou need to train them properly, make sure they know how to interact with people, and know the right answers to things.\u201d\nGoogle AI, which is used by ANZ\u2019s Jamie, orIBM Watson provide the expertise in the natural language process used by the digital humans, combining the power of emotional intelligence and AI.\nShe says this involves creating the digital DNA of the person, a virtual nervous system that will give them the autonomous power to recreate the way they interact with humans, including their mannerisms and facial expressions.\nThe benefits are immense, she says.\nFor instance, one of the projects they worked on was for a provider of services for the disabled. "That means people who do not normally have access to this information can interact with them in the comfort of their own home, 24x7, in a way that is suitable for them," says Swery.\nDr Elinor Swery of Soul Machines (photo by Divina Paredes)\n\u2018Avoid the temptation of eliminating humans in the loop\u2019\nIn a recent report, Gartner predicts through 2022, organisations that use AI augmentation, such as digital assistants, as an essential element in their digital workplace, will boost employee Net Promoter Scoreby 20 per cent. \nDuring that time too, one in five workers engaged mostly in non-routine tasks will rely on AI to do their jobs, according to Gartner analysts Manjunath Bhat, and Matthew W. Cain.\nThe Gartner analysts point out all jobs will have both nonroutine and routine work.\nPlan to augment, but not completely replace, traditional human-facing channels for support functions to avoid negative impact on customer satisfaction.\n\u201cCreative aspects of work tend to produce eustress (as opposed to distress), a stress response resulting from positive emotions such a sense of accomplishment or empowerment. As AI takes the monotony out of work, employees can unlock latent skills by shifting focus to more creative, nonroutine aspects of the job,\u201d they write.\nThe Gartner report also cautions organisations to avoid the temptation of eliminating humans in the work loop.\n\u201cDepending on the nature of the change, the AI model may be slow or unable to react to fundamental assumptions that applied when it was trained. Much damage could be caused before the human-machine disconnect is noticed,\u201d it states.\n\u201cHumans should own final responsibility to handle anomalies and exceptions, and anticipate their occurrence based on factors extraneous to the trained model.\u201d\nThus, the report recommends application leaders responsible for the digital workplace to \u201cplan to augment, but not completely replace, traditional human-facing channels for support functions to avoid negative impact on customer satisfaction.\nThey should also \u201cuse AI process automation to scale business processes, but rely on deep domain expertise in people to improve the quality of automation."\nANZ Bank customers talking to Jamie\nSend news tips and comments email@example.com\nFollow Divina Paredes on Twitter:@divinap\nFollow CIO New Zealand on Twitter:@cio_nz\nSign up forCIO newsletters for regular updates on CIO news, views and events.