About four years ago, Kevin Dunn and Peter Stevenson, co-founders of Trustnode, approached me with a novel idea for selling insurance and financial products. They wanted to talk with me because of my background in user experience design and human cognition and perception.

Their idea was bold. They wanted to replace human sales agents with interactive 3D avatars who could sell insurance and financial products. These avatars would be programmed with deep knowledge about these complex domains and be able to answer questions clearly and patiently. Their interactive agent would never sleep, have inexhaustible patience, be available to anyone with a computer 24/7, and, most importantly, be trustworthy. Plus, they wouldn’t charge huge commissions on each sale (a bonus no consumer would argue with). 

I was showed a couple of demos. One was a 3D realistic avatar, a quasi-human looking guy in a suit and tie who was looking at me and telling me about insurance. The look of the 3D realistic avatar was well executed, but there was something creepy about him. While he appeared human and, on the surface, “intelligent,” I knew he wasn’t human, only pretending to be. Also, as I know enough about natural language processing; I knew I could trip him up simply by asking a question that wasn’t scripted. I simply didn’t trust the artificial guy.

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