Among its staff are Artificial Intelligence researchers, neuroscientists, psychologists and artists.
Cross says talking - face-to-face communication - is at the heart of what they do.
“We have a need to be able to trust the people we engage with. Whenever you have an important meeting, whether it is a family meeting, or a business meeting, you need a face to face meeting because we have a need to be able to trust the people we are engaging with.”
Yet we live in an age in which increasingly we are engaging with machines.
“We have this very simple view that these machines can be more useful to us if they are more like us, if they are more human like,” Cross says. “We can engage with them.”
For companies like ANZ, digital assistants are a way to make the customer service experience more accessible.
ANZ’s Head of Digital and Transformation Liz Maguire says it’s important to remember humans have been talking a lot, lot longer than we’ve been using small screens.
“One of our thoughts going into this was if we could find ways for customers to talk to us, to ask questions, rather than pressing screens, that might be easier for certain groups of customers.“
Cross adds that “If you are a big organisation working with hundreds of thousands, or millions, of customers how do you create a more personal experience? How do you deliver incredibly specialised information and knowledge to everybody you interact with?”
Soul Machines’ technology is based on work undertaken by its founder Dr Mark Sagar and his engineering team at the Auckland Bioengineering Institute at the University of Auckland.
Dr Sagar is a two-time science and engineering Oscar winner for his facial animation work on films like Avatar, Spiderman 2 and King Kong.