CANNES — Clippy was never this clever. Artificial intelligence is now taking us on a journey to a time where we will interact with lifelike digital avatars in virtual worlds populated by thousands of artificial actors.

That is the vision of artificial intelligence pioneer Mark Sagar. He should know – the CEO of Soul Machines says his company has partnered with IBM’s Watson to create digital humans that can understand language and concepts and respond to people with appropriate facial expressions, emotion and mood.”

And now he says the same technology can be deployed by any company, to help imbue their machines with realistic empathy for customer interaction.

“Human cooperation is the biggest force in human history – we’re getting to a point where we can now cooperate with machines,” Auckland-based Sagar says during this panel interview at Cannes Lions.

“You start having situations where you can co-create with machines. If you add these in to the VR and AR worlds, you are populating an entire world of interactive characters, like you can interact with real people.”

Powered by IBM’s Watson cognitive technology, The Weather Company has been doing some early work in helping brands create chatbots that, using lifelike linguistic interaction, can have valuable discussions with audiences.

But Sagar, whose company also uses Watson, thinks that the next step in socialization is visual, humanizing brandbots using emotions in artificial brains that sit behind 3D facial models.

“We don’t just make realistic faces, they can be non-human characters,” he says. “We can take a brand and create an embodiment of the brand personality – you can control all the expressions that brand has so a customer can interact with that brand.”

This video is part of Beet.TV’s AI Series from Cannes Lions 2017, presented by The Weather Company, an IBM BusinessFor more from the series, please visit this page.