Hot Docs review: Hi, AI

Fascinating film looks at the connection between two complex humans trying to make connections with robots

HI, AI (Isa Willinger, Germany). 85 minutes. Rating: NNNN

Every year brings us at least one documentary about artificial intelligence Hi, AI is the 2019 model. But unlike the recent More Human Than Human or The Truth About Killer Robots, Isa Willinger’s film doesn’t bother too much with the science of it all he’s far more interested in the people than the machines.  

The film looks at two people badly in need of companionship: an isolated American man who brings home a talking sex doll called Harmony, and an older Japanese woman whose son has designed a childlike robot called Pepper. Neither of the robots will be used for the purposes you might imagine Willinger isn’t here to leer, just to observe. 

The occasional cutaway to a robotics lab or SXSW tech conference offers some intriguing data about the evolution of computer sentience, but the focus here is on the interaction between complex human beings trying to make a connection with robots that can’t offer more than preprogrammed responses. Someday they’ll be good enough to engage in conversation, but right now all we can see is the gap between them and us. 

April 29, 8:45 pm, Scotiabank 4 April 30, noon, Scotiabank 3 May 4, 6:30 pm, TIFF 2

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