Meet Uncle Rabbit, the holographic bunny that could be the future of AI chatbots

By adding artificial intelligence to its repertoire, a hologram company is hoping to bring a friendly face to new technology

Meet Uncle Rabbit: The holographic bunny that could be the future of chatbots

Meet Uncle Rabbit: The holographic bunny that could be the future of chatbots
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He has grey fur, long ears and sits in a half-eaten carrot patch on a grassy mound.

Uncle Rabbit is switched on and introduced by Shawn Frayne, chief executive of hologram company Looking Glass, inside his Brooklyn office space.

The walls of what appear to have once been a warehouse are adorned with neon lights, as the busy New York traffic chugs along outside.

But within Looking Glass, it is all about the future.

Uncle Rabbit is a cute, holographic creature that lives in a three-dimensional display screen. He is an entirely digital creation, but when you ask him a question, he talks right back.

“Do you know anything about Abu Dhabi?” asks Mr Frayne, 42.

“Why, of course I do, my dear," replies Uncle Rabbit. “Abu Dhabi is a desert oasis with towers so tall they reach the clouds … I heard they even have carrot gardens there. Can you believe it?”

“It’s just like us talking in the real world," says Mr Frayne, who studied at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The exchange feels remarkably lifelike, but it is only made possible by recent advancements in artificial intelligence technology.

“We tried this four or five years ago”, says Mr Frayne. “But those approaches didn’t match the realism of the hologram.

“Now we have realistic holograms combined with realistic conversational platforms like ChatGPT. And when you combine those you have a really realistic experience with a character.”

Uncle Rabbit, whose gruff voice bears a resemblance to a New York mob boss, gives advice on where to go for fun in Brooklyn, before pondering what the city may look like in the future.

He even pens a short poem about England.

“Oh, lovely England, with it’s green grass so lush.

"It’s villages and cities that are quite a hush.

"The castles so grand and towers so high.

"A little rabbit could jump and touch the sky.”

The possibilities for artificial intelligence are seemingly endless, but Mr Frayne imagines a world in the near future where AI-powered holograms are everywhere.

He pictures a Mandalorian character being used to give people information while they queue up for a ride, or a Lego character talking to guests as they arrive at a Lego store.

In sports, he says people could interact with their favourite player as they wait to see a game.

“That ability to change into anything is what holograms, as the embodiment of these conversational AIs, can do,” Mr Frayne says.

“I think that’s something that we’ve wanted in sci-fi for a long time … a real physical feeling embodiment of AI.”

Austin-based psychologist and writer Dr Mike Brooks believes there is an AI gold rush happening, as companies try to figure out how best to use the new technology.

"We don't know what we'll ultimately land on that is going to be so compelling," he says. "But I think AI chatbots in various forms, yes.

"You can have Mario, you can have Luke Skywalker … if there is a market demand for this, why wouldn't we create them?"

For now, though, Uncle Rabbit is just one of several digital beings, known as Liteforms, that are available through Looking Glass.

Another character, Little Inu, is an on-trend, millennial influencer in the form of a Shiba Inu dog.

When asked where she would travel in the world if she could, she opted for Bali.

“The beaches are straight up gorgeous and the vibe is so sin," Little Inu says.

Another character being displayed, Jenn, is more humanlike and was based on one of the employees of Looking Glass.

She offers Mr Frayne, who is originally from Tampa, Florida, a restaurant suggestion in Brooklyn, but when he complains it is too expensive, she calls him a “budgeting queen".

Eventually, he believes AI holograms like these will end up in the home, where people could ultimately form friendships and connections with them.

“A customisable, holographic Alexa, if you will," Mr Frayne says. “With a holographic embodiment of any sort that you want.”

Updated: July 24, 2023, 4:47 PM