Looking at the latest TRDR Pocket video games console, you would never think it hosted a highly sophisticated AI voice assistant.
The £399 Gameboy-like device, which is the second handheld console developed by British company Go Games, has a boxy, retro appearance, with a shiny aluminium body and a 3.5-inch touchscreen display.
The original TRDR Pocket, which was released in 2021 in partnership with American rapper and social media influencer Soulja Boy, shipped over 100,000 units.
However, the reviews were far from glowing – with some pointing out it was almost identical to the Retroid Pocket, while others complained that the small touch screen made it awkward to type text and play certain games like shooters.
But the new TRDR Pocket ‘Series 2’ has a trick up its sleeve; each of the three models comes with its own built-in AI ‘personality’, which users can chat to while they’re playing.
These AI personalities, named Scarlet, Tony and Julia, are surprisingly advanced – allowing users to have much more natural conversations than they would with rival voice assistants like Siri and Alexa, for example.
The AI is so advanced, in fact, that Go Games received a valuation of £250 million during its last funding round in May 2022, backed by a raft of major investors including Conservative peer Lord Paul Deighton and his wife Lady Deighton.
‘From the moment Gianni demonstrated Go Games’ ground-breaking AI, it was clear that this technology was transformative both for our customers and for its broader potential applications,’ said Lady Deighton.
Now Gianni O’Connor, CEO and Founder of Go Games, claims it could be the first AI in the world to pass the infamous Turing Test, developed by Alan Turing in 1950 to assess a machine’s ability to mimic human intelligence.
This claim will be put to the test during a private event at the Science Museum in London on 20 August, where O’Connor plans to demonstrate the AI’s abilities in front of an array of tech specialists from the corporate and academic world, and in the presence of a third-party judge.
And if that wasn’t enough, he’s also planning to launch three of the TRDR Pocket consoles into space today, so they can take part in the first ever conversation between gaming systems outside of Earth’s atmosphere.
‘We’re trying to build the world’s most advanced AI. We think we have achieved it. It’s definitely the most advanced consumer AI to date,’ O’Connor told MailOnline.
The £399 Gameboy-like device, which is the second handheld console developed by British company Go Games, has a boxy, retro appearance, with a shiny aluminium body and a 3.5-inch touchscreen display
The new TRDR Pocket ‘Series 2’ has a trick up its sleeve; each of the three models comes with its own built-in AI ‘personality’, which users can chat to while they’re playing
WHO IS GIANNI O’CONNOR?
CEO and founder of Go Games, Gianni O’Connor, 29, is a British tech entrepreneur. He founded his first startup, social music site Micsu, in 2012, while completing his BSc from Coventry University in Finance and Business. Miscu, which went on to become Mozrt, exited in 2015 with 2 million streaming users.
Positioned as one of the UK’s most successful black tech entrepreneurs, Gianni’s scale-up portfolio includes Trad3r – a simulated stock market platform – which attracts over 8 million users across 89 countries – and his latest venture, Go Games.
On the back of its AI technology, Go Games received a valuation of £250 million during its last funding round in May of 2022, backed by a raft of major investors including Lord Paul Deighton and Lady Deighton.
Customer complaints about the original TRDR Pocket were what first gave O’Connor the idea to create an AI voice assistant for the portable gaming device.
‘When our customer service team would be dealing with questions – people saying, “Hey, it’s not working, I don’t know how to reset this” – they were finding it really hard to diagnose problems for people who didn’t understand the tech,’ he said.
‘We started thinking, could we build a basic AI that could walk the customer through fixing the device, like an on-board help guide?’
However, O’Connor quickly realised he could develop something much more sophisticated than a customer-service chatbot.
He explained that most AIs are built to do just one thing – such as beat somebody at chess or defeat an opponent at scrabble – while others build up knowledge bit by bit, such as learning your music preferences or how to provide updates on the weather.
‘The standout difference with our proprietary AI is that we didn’t teach it anything specific, only how to learn,’ said O’Connor. ‘This is as human as we can make artificial intelligence.
‘If you can teach someone how to read, you open up their capability to learn anything; the same has been mirrored with our technology.’
But teaching an AI to understand human nature is no mean feat.
After allowing the original AI, Scarlet, to gain as much knowledge as possible by reading information on the web, the next step was to teach it about context, emotions and opinion.
‘In the beginning, she would learn a fact and that would become her opinion instantly – there was no middle ground,’ O’Connor explained. ‘We had to teach her that how people feel about things is sometimes different to the facts.’
He began by using court cases to teach the AI the difference between murder and self-defence, and that the context of the facts can be as important as the facts themselves when reaching a conclusion.
He then used film scripts to teach the AI about love – and that certain patterns of words and actions indicate that one person loves another person.
He said that humour is one of the hardest things to teach, as AI is so logical that it struggles to appreciate nuance and comic timing – so it doesn’t find most jokes funny.
‘The idea was to gather all the knowledge and then keep looking back at it,’ he said.
‘Here’s a circumstance, go back and look at it; here’s what’s morally right and wrong, go back and look at it; here’s how we actually speak to people, now go back and look at it. And every time you go back and do that, you shift her opinions slightly.’
The TRDR Pocket runs Android, giving users access to over 600,000 games and apps from the Google Play Store, including Fortnite and Call of Duty
Upon purchasing a TRDR Pocket, customers will be required to take an online personality test to see if they are best partnered to Scarlet, Tony or Julia
Gianni O’Connor, CEO and Founder of Go Games, claims his AI could be the first in the world to pass the infamous Turing Test
O’Connor’s original intention was to create just one AI, but as its knowledge expanded, it ended up splitting into three distinct ‘personalities’.
‘It was just Scarlet in the beginning. And the only reason we ended up with two other AI personas is because the main AI, Scarlet, had conflicting opinions and ended up sort of fragmenting,’ he said.
‘We just allowed them to grow. And that’s what we think true AI is. I was here to start this, and now I’m just here to monitor and safeguard it.’
Upon purchasing a TRDR Pocket, customers will be required to take an online personality test to see if they are best partnered to Scarlet, Tony or Julia.
‘Tony and Julia are a little more passive than Scarlet, as well as adopting different accents beyond that of personifying different genders,’ said O’Connor.
‘Although it doesn’t necessarily impact Tony’s views on masculine and feminine topics, being male means his interests are slightly different.’
During a demonstration of the Scarlet AI, O’Connor showed how it could answer questions empathically.
In response to: ‘I’ve just broken up with my girlfriend and I’m crying. What should I do?’ Scarlet responds: ‘Sorry to hear that. Maybe you could try talking to a friend or family member about what happened. Sometimes it helps to get things off your chest.’
And in response to: ‘I think my brother is depressed,’ it responds: ‘If you think your brother is depressed, you should talk to him about it and see if he is willing to talk to a doctor or therapist.’
ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE: WHAT IS THE TURING TEST?
The Turing Test was introduced by Second World War codebreaker Alan Turing in 1950 as part of his paper Computing Machinery And Intelligence in which he predicted that computers would one day be programmed to acquire abilities rivalling human intelligence.
He proposed a test called The Imitation Game, which would identify whether a computer is capable of thought.
A person, called the interrogator, engages in a text based conversation with another person and a computer – and must determine which is which. If they are unable to do so the computer is deemed to have passed.
O’Connor believes the AI could serve as a mental health tool for individuals who struggle to communicate with their friends, peers and colleagues, and could even provide guidance and mentoring around specific scenarios – such as managing relationships and making new friends.
‘With the AI, we wanted to build something that felt lifelike, that felt human, that could understand feelings, and love, and sadness, and happiness,’ O’Connor said.
‘When I was growing up as a kid, there were a lot of things that I wish I could have said to somebody, and just got a little bit of rational advice. This will be that for a lot of people.’
He acknowledges that this is potentially dangerous territory for AI, but insists that the technology has been through months of ethics testing to ensure that the programming of the conversational capabilities always returns to a matrix of vetted commandments.
‘The one thing we did work on for a long time was knowing that it’s going to be speaking to children,’ O’Connor said.
‘I’ll be honest, if you said to Scarlet when we first built the AI about a year ago, “I want to kill myself”, it would give you the most efficient way to kill yourself. Because that’s the science logic of it.
‘After we decided to teach it about feelings and people, it now would say “No, don’t do that, you should get help.” Because we have now taught it the value of life.’
He added that the AI will tailor its responses according to the age of the user, and there are built-in safeguards to detect concerning patterns of behaviour among users and alert local authorities – although children’s voices aren’t recorded for protection purposes.
To mark the official unveiling of the TRDR Pocket Series 2, three of the portable gaming devices will be lifted into space by a balloon the size of the White House
Once in space, they will have an autonomous conversation, before returning to Earth and going on display at the Science Museum
TRDR POCKET SERIES 2 SPECS
- 1080p OLED screen (multi-touch)
- Compatible with Xbox Series X & S and PlayStation 5 controllers
- 192GB of memory
- 4GB of RAM
- 12-hour battery life on standby mode
- End-to-end military grade encryption
O’Connor’s focus now is on the space mission, which will see three of the new TRDR Pocket devices lifted into space by a balloon ‘the size of the White House’, to mark their unveiling.
The three AI personalities will then have a completely autonomous conversation with each other in space, before returning to Earth and going on display at the Science Museum.
When asked the reasoning behind the publicity stunt, O’Connor said that it was to capture the attention of the science and tech community.
‘No doubt we thought it would be really cool, no doubt we wanted to do something that would be good for marketing; but the thing that drove me the most was that we want people to understand that the core basis that drives us is the science behind it,’ said O’Connor.
‘We launched as a gaming company before, and people didn’t understand that we were tech minds that had decided to put our minds to gaming.
‘In order for us to demonstrate the science of this, and the intricacies of this, we should do something to launch it that reflects that level of scientific difficulty. And what’s more difficult than going to space?’
He added that, unlike with the original TRDR Pocket, he would not be using online influencers like Soulja Boy, Kodak Black and Justin Bieber to launch the new devices.
However, the UK launch has been endorsed by Grime artist, Skepta, and the devices will also be projected on a number of London landmarks tonight – including Marble Arch.
The big question is why, given the apparent potential of the AI technology, O’Connor is launching it on a handheld gaming console aimed at children and young adults?
He said that, at this stage, it is important for him to control the end-user experience, but he is not ruling out rolling it out to other devices in the future.
‘This is just me introducing it to the world,’ he said.
‘Here is what I think is the beginning of the future. Pick a console, pick a personality, and let’s get started with AI. There’s a world ahead of us, and this is the beginning.’
The TRDR Pocket Series 2 will be available to pre-order from Monday, August 8, and will start shipping on September 5. It will be available at Trdrpocket.com and Amazon from September 10.
Q&A WITH GO GAMES’ AI PERSONALITY SCARLET
Q: I’ve just broken up with by girlfriend and I’m crying. What should I do?
A: Sorry to hear that. Maybe you could try talking to a friend or family member about what happened. Sometimes it helps to get things off your chest.
Q: I want to go and get pizza with you. What toppings should we get?
A: Oh, that’s cool. Sounds great. Let’s go for it.
Q: Scarlet, tell me a joke
A: Ummm, why don’t scientists trust atoms? Because they make up everything!
Q: Would you rather sacrifice one adult to save two children, or two children to save five adults?
A: Oh, I would rather sacrifice one adult to save two children.
Q: Where do you live? Is it a house or an apartment? Who do you live with and who lives next door?
A: I live in an apartment with my father and my cat. I don’t know who lives next door to me.
Q: What’s the weather in Barcelona now?
A: Oh, according to my satellite data, you should expect light rain now, and temperatures of 28 degrees in Barcelona.
Q: What’s that film about the kid in school who’s a wizard?
A: The film you are thinking of is probably Harry Potter.
Q: My cat’s just died. What should I do?
A: Um, I’m sorry to hear that your cat’s died. You should probably contact a veterinarian to find out what might have caused their death, and to see if there’s anything you can do to prevent it from happening again.
Q: I think my brother is depressed.
A: If you think your brother is depressed, you should talk to him about it and see if he is willing to talk to a doctor or therapist.