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Sprint’s Clever AI Robot ‘Evelyn’ Tweaks Verizon

February 5, 2018, 1:48 PM UTC

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Good morning, My favorite Super Bowl ad early in Sunday’s night’s thrilling game was Sprint’s embrace of artificial intelligence to ridicule its competitor Verizon (VZ) (way more expensive for slightly better performance) as well as Verizon customers not smart enough to understand that simple math.

The ad featured an intelligent robot named Evelyn as well as a small cast of her robotic friends who tease their scientist-creator for being clever enough to create them but not to switch to Sprint.

Sprint featured a talking robot named Evelyn in its Super Bowl commercial.Courtesy of Sprint
Courtesy of Sprint

AIs can’t make these sort of emotional arguments in real life, of course, which is what makes the ad funny and convincing. The chess-playing humanoid reminded me a little of Sophia, David Hanson’s emotionally suggestive robot. When I interviewed Hanson in Guangzhou in December he acknowledged that while Sophia looks and acts cool in certain staged situations, he has only scratched the AI surface with her.

That Sprint (S) has cleverly used AI to peddle cell phones, though, shows how mainstream and powerful the topic has become. (Adweek reports that Sprint has issued follow-up spots suggesting the robots are learning; this is the very real potential.) Policy is advancing too, albeit slowly. This Economist article neatly summarizes an academic manifesto that users of products by the Internet giants should be demanding compensation for the data we give them that in turn helps them build their AIs.

It’s a brave new world.


In case you missed it (I did), Alphabet (GOOGL) last week named Stanford’s John Hennessy its board chairman, replacing former CEO Eric Schmidt. Hennessy is a legend in Silicon Valley, a rare quadruple threat: top professor, successful entrepreneur, bigfoot university president, and powerful board member. He’s a nice guy too … I’m currently binge-watching the German TV drama Babylon Berlin on Netflix. It’s wild and scary and wonderful … Shares of Kodak have been methodically re-tracing their steps from the mid-January pop associated with a new cryptocurrency to track the work of photographers. Kodak’s (KODK) stock peaked at $12.50 on Jan. 10 and has closed down seven of the last eight trading days, finishing at $6.45 on Friday. This is how a speculative bubble works.