Jamie is not a performer per se, she’s a digital assistant and she went live last month, dealing with customers. For Marcon, who comes from the movie business, Jamie’s entrance must have been like a film premiere.
" “Jamie is a little bit of a geek, especially about banking and science fiction.” - Marcon
“I just feel incredibly lucky to be in the right place at the right time,” she told bluenotes.
Marcon was hand-picked for the role by ANZ’s Head of Emerging Technologies, Don Whiteside, because of her background in screen writing.
“It was Don who thought ‘oh I need someone to write scripts’ and had the vision of her having a personality, so I guess it made sense for him to hire someone who could create a character,” Marcon says.
The writer and director of a handful of films including She’s Racing, Picnic Stops, and The Most Fun You Can Have Dying – she says changing careers has been a great experience.
“The emerging tech team is awesome to work for. What we’re doing is really hard and challenging but everyone works together and is really enthusiastic about what they’re doing. “
When talking with Jamie, customers become very aware she’s able to do more than provide rote answers to banking questions. Marcon’s screenwriting expertise has given Jamie a back-story and personality to make her feel more human.
This depth of development combined with Soul Machine’s world-leading technology places Jamie at the top of her field in the AI space.
“When I first started, I talked to the marketing team about ANZ’s persona in advertising. From that I decided I wanted her to be really serious and professional but also casual and lovely at the same time,” explains Marcon.
Marcon also spent time with the social media team and on the phones at the Wellington contact centre.
“It was really insightful. I saw how friendly and causal, intelligent but relaxed they were in dealing with customers. I just loved the attitude I saw there.”
It was clear that Jamie’s personality needed to be appropriate for a kiwi woman of around 25 - to match the appearance of the avatar.
“Developing her personality was fun,” says Marcon. “She grew in time. As we worked on her over the last few months, it slowly became easier to answer the question: ‘What would Jamie say?’
“We’ve been able to craft her taste in things like books, movies, and what she likes to do in her time off. Jamie is a little bit of a geek, especially about banking and science fiction.”
Stranger than fiction
Creating content for Jamie has proved to have quite a lot in common with writing for film.
“When we went live, it actually felt like making a film but unlike films we can change it after going live and that’s incredible!”
Marcon continues to write screen plays in her spare time and enjoys having her own projects on the go.
“Weirdly, just before I came to ANZ I did write a film which had an evil AI in it. I’ve now seen the error of my ways,” she laughs.
Back to the future
“Personally I’m interested in how avatars can be useful in our lives in the future. For example a case could be made for more community-focused avatars, used in a similar way to how robots have been used as companions for the elderly in Japan.”
Marcon also says she’s interested in getting closer to a truly conversational experience, because Jamie is currently a bit of a hybrid.
“She’s not able to have a context based conversation where you tell Jamie something and then in a few sentences she might refer back to it,” says Marcon. “That’s where everyone is trying to go, to a true AI. We’re not there yet, it’s far more of a manual process.”
For now, Marcon loves the deviation of her career into IT. “It never ceases to amaze me that I can write something and she will say it. Even 8 months later it’s really exciting!”