Hume AI brings its creepy emotional AI chatbot to iPhone

Hume AI voice EVI
(Image credit: Hume)

Hume Al, the U.S.-based research lab dedicated to building systems which are ' optimized for human well-being', has just unveiled an iOS app version of its EVI platform called Hume: Your Personal AI

The product includes a new AI Voice called Kora, as well as support for the hot new Claude 3.5 Sonnet LLM to power the chat in the background. 

With a combination of Hume's more emotive voice and Anthropic's promised humor recognition — it should be good, but it isn't much better than talking to my local install of Meta's Llama 3 8b.

Hume's secret sauce, including in the new mobile AI chatbot, is built around 'empathetic' AI, which seems to involve making the voice responses more lifelike than robotic and allowing it to 'analyze' the tone of your voice. Like GPT-4o it can detect when you've interrupted but it is much slower than OpenAI's flagship.

An emotional AI model

Hume AI

(Image credit: Hume AI)

Thankfully the new Kora voice is completely unlike that of Scarlett Johansen, which should ensure we avoid the hysteria that accompanied OpenAI's launch of its cutesy GTP4o chatbot earlier this year.

As well as the iOS app, EVI is available in commercial API form, so any company that wants to make its chatbot more user-friendly and engaging has an instant route to a not-quite Scarlett of its own. 

In return for the $0.102/ minute API fee, it will receive 'expressive' text-to-speech offering subtle tones of voice, word emphasis (e.g. determined), and other forms of human expression. This sits on top of any underlying AI model of your choice including custom models trained on personal or company data.

The platform is multimodal, so customers can pay extra for video to get all essential facial expressions and speech prosody to make chat conversations pop and sizzle. Enterprise customers can also take advantage of custom voices at extra cost, which is obviously targeted at resource-starved HR and marketing departments.

Using Hume's voice bot

I played around with the web based demo of the API to check it out, and it was OK (Ed: the mobile version works much the same way). 

To be honest, apart from some pretty on-screen graphics telling me just how 'excited, amused, or determined’ the chatbot was, I could see no significant difference between EVI/Kora responses and my local Llama 3 8B model delivering a nice BBQ recipe.

The Hume eLLM (empathetic large language model) is trained using Reinforcement Learning Human Expression, and according to Hume’s front page the tech is being used by Synthesia for its well known range of video avatars, which makes sense. 

We’re definitely now locked in an arms race to bring creepy personalized chatbots and avatars to our devices and screens, and it’s all Scarlett’s fault. Or at least that darn movie.

The Hume:Your Personal AI iOS app is available on the AppStore now free of charge. Be warned, it comes with a 17+ rating.

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Nigel Powell
Tech Journalist

Nigel Powell is an author, columnist, and consultant with over 30 years of experience in the technology industry. He produced the weekly Don't Panic technology column in the Sunday Times newspaper for 16 years and is the author of the Sunday Times book of Computer Answers, published by Harper Collins. He has been a technology pundit on Sky Television's Global Village program and a regular contributor to BBC Radio Five's Men's Hour.

He has an Honours degree in law (LLB) and a Master's Degree in Business Administration (MBA), and his work has made him an expert in all things software, AI, security, privacy, mobile, and other tech innovations. Nigel currently lives in West London and enjoys spending time meditating and listening to music.