Entrepreneurship Podcast post

Creating a Digital Persona with Chuck Rinker

George Grombacher April 27, 2023

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Creating a Digital Persona with Chuck Rinker

LifeBlood: We talked about creating a digital persona, the limits of our imaginations, the importance of relatability when it comes to technology, the uncanny valley, and what the future holds, with Chuck Rinker, CEO of PRSONAS.    

Listen to learn about the use cases for this exciting technology!

You can learn more about Chuck at PRSONAS.com, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn.

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Our Guests

George Grombacher

Chuck Rinker

Episode Transcript

george grombacher 0:00
On one level, this is George G. And the time is right welcome today’s guests drop off with Chuck rancor. Chuck. Are you ready to do this?

Chuck Rinker 0:08
Let’s go.

george grombacher 0:09
Let’s go. Chuck is the CEO of personas. He’s an imagineer without the IRS. He’s developed a digital personality engine bringing human engagement to self service solutions. excited to have you on Chuck, tell us a bit about your personal lives more about your work, why you do what you do.

Unknown Speaker 0:28
Sounds great. Appreciate it, George. Yeah. You know, I grew up a cattle farmer, Virginia of all things and turned into a human AI expert to kind of go Yeah, doesn’t everybody do that? Yeah, I was just kind of fascinated with technology. As a kid growing up on a farm. I had one of those original Mattel football games that came out like 1977 and horsemen show my age, of course. But back then your Mattel was able to convince you that this little red.on the screen as a quarterback, or lineman. And so I was really fascinated by how your brain can immerse yourself into believing about these personalities. So digital personality disorder, humans aren’t as new as everybody says they are. They’re just more advanced. So I got into this technology engagement about how do we how can technology and humans engage. We lived outside of DC, my dad kind of recognized an early passion I had for this type of tech. So he was able to get me in with some of the military happenings around the DC area. So I got into simulations and training all at early age, and the black ops world and did a lot of that that kind of led me into something I wanted to do a little more entertaining. So I started getting into the game development side of it outside of the simulation, and after really becoming enamored with gaming, and how gaming can be an escape that how gaming can engage people at an emotional level at a human level. That’s why everybody claims you know what games are addictive? Well, to be blunt, yeah, they are. But they’re addictive, because they’re so engaging with you as a person. So I was able to work my way up through the ranks who are in the NCAA and Madden Football franchises for esports. And went like, you know, this is the ultimate This is the ultimate gaming. But then as I got a little older and wanted to do something a little different. I’ve been in that world for, you know, decades. I said, you know, what can you do with this? That has to be blunt, bigger purpose. So I started this company, almost 20 years ago, we’ve really been advancing into how to support different communities. Now. Now we’re up to the point where the technology has caught up with the ideal. The ideal was always to do something amazing, where what could you do if you could engage and get people as addicted to their health, as addicted to wellness as addicted to serving underserved communities as addictive to bridging the gap for inclusivity? And diversity? What How could you do that? Now we’re at a point in technology that’s possible. So that’s really what personas is all about is that ultimate form of using digital personalities to connect consumers, patients, traveling public, underserved communities, with all this great technology, you hear about AI technology, IoT is all the scalability of tech is not to up to this point, then accessible to all. So this concept of digital personalities is meant to bridge that communication gap between the technology and the human engagement.

george grombacher 3:27
Fascinating. How To your point about, about that, that original game you were playing? And it’s like, it’s interesting how my brain is happy to accept that this little.is In fact, a quarterback running around and that’s, you know, movies have certainly grown and evolved over time. But we were happy, you know, long time ago to sit in a screen and let our imagination run wild and accept things that certainly didn’t really look very good, but totally fine.

Chuck Rinker 3:59
You were absolutely correct. I feel like I’m preaching to the choir a little bit because you get it obviously. And it’s interesting you bring that up though, because a lot of interest in a lot of publicity is around digital humans. Now Hollywood has this portrayal of digital humans and AI as this, you know, evil thing that’s going to come out of the woodworks is determined that humans are not needed on this planet. So we’re going to replace them. And a lot of our and I don’t wanna call them competitors, because there’s a lot of good work being done in a lot of areas. But one thing you’ll notice about the approach we take and why I’m very very specific about not using the word digital human in our in our product, is I learned very early on I was I had the honor of sitting with the Vice President of Imagineer the Disney was pitching some of these concepts to Disney. I’ve done a little bit of work with the imaginary stone and celebration. And we’ll go into that but actually did a funnel project where I engage patients at that celebration hospital using an animated bear with another company, and how then improve the outcomes and reduce sedation rates in pediatric care when kids had to get imaging? How do you get them comfortable on environment? How do you get them to trust what they’re going through, and to have something they can relate to. And that’s a real world example that works really already helped kids. We’ve reduced pre op post op, they’ve had lower sedation rates, and the kids were just more comfortable going through the scary procedures. So the point is, is that as we got into this digital human versus digital personality, our competitors are kind of going with this belief that they want things Ultra photorealistic. And you know, how does how does George, look, George has a certain hairdo and he’s got certain gestures as he’s not as a head up and down in the in the grin on his face, and what his knowledge base in his brain and what Jon Snoddy taught me very early, and it was in a short four hour session with John. And he used to run a game company where he was bringing photographs of humans of the players into the game. And he said, Be careful, you’re hitting the uncanny valley, Chuck. And not everybody knows what the uncanny valley is not to put you on the spot doors. But have you heard the term uncanny valley?

george grombacher 6:13
It just I just wrote that down. It’s when something is close enough. But but but not quite close enough. It makes us uncomfortable.

Unknown Speaker 6:21
Yeah, it’s easy way to describe it as the horror movies we watch. When a head turns a little farther than it should, or the wrist joints look a little there, or something looks really human like like the Gollum character, but not quite human, and it becomes creepy. And he’s like, you don’t want to creep people out. And Disney do this and LinkedIn 28, Disney makes you cry when a deer gets shot. Disney can make you believe that a skunk can talk that a fox and a snake can run a country. So that whole belief of what your psyche goes through is really the approach we take. So I basically, jokingly tried to steal the name and thunder of the great, wonderful what you’ll find I’m a big follower of the Disney mentality and how Walt Disney was a technologist at heart, not necessarily an animator like people think. And so the belief there is that our characters are meant to be instilled with personality, doesn’t matter if their eyes are a little bit too big, it doesn’t matter if their hair is not perfect. What matters is can you relate to it? Is it relatable to you? Do you have what we call in the gaming industry a suspension of disbelief? Do you really believe in the personality behind it, not the physical representation of the character. So our mantra is really human communication, not human replication. And that’s an important distinguishment and where I believe the market is going to go. And where I believe you’re going to bridge the gap for some of the I’ll call it more important. And that’s a little bit, a little bit of a soapbox, but a little more important work we’re trying to do like within clinical trials, for example, and instances where you have to earn trust, you have to be empathetic to your audience, you have to be able to be relatable, you have to be able to have characters that have multiple cultural backgrounds that can speak our characters, I’ll speak 148 languages, we have two members of the deaf community on staff and we teach our avatars, how to do sign language, and how to communicate with all audiences. And so it’s that communication gap that we’re trying to bridge and that’s a distinguishment we make and the development of our personalities and how we’re going to apply into I think you get into how we’re going to plan to what our real practical applications can people go this is pie in the sky. This is creating digital humans, whether we’re regardless of whether the game like characters or not, that there’s a real a real need for those underserved communities. And how do you support the improvement? We’re making great progress, but we’re not there diversity inclusivity. And again, overall communication. So so that’s where your passion lies.

george grombacher 8:59
I think it’s fascinating. How do you get people to I’m fond of saying I’d rather be useful than brilliant. So I want to be able to get a message across in a way that somebody is going to be accepting of it. And it’s trust, empathy, it’s been relatable and otherwise, that people are looking at me like this, this, this is, this is BS, it’s too good to be true. I died. I don’t like it. I’m not connecting whatever those are those are your barriers to doing the work that you’re interested in doing.

Unknown Speaker 9:31
Yes, absolutely. And you’re nailing it. Like I said, you could probably be delivering most of these podcasts on your own without me, because the concepts are there. And it’s just really, there’s a technology stack to not get too geeky on it. That’s really required to pull this off. And so what I like to tell people is the company we created I call it when gamers get serious, like my CTO is a ex developer on the Madden franchise worked on Wilmington scorings. systems. You know, my CIO has a UX degree. My CTO has an animation degree. We’re basically a company of about 16 people when we have a good significant portion of our company comes from gaming background or interactive technology backgrounds. And I call ourselves that the left and right brain companies. I mean, my background goes from web to computer science, to 3d animation and multimedia tech. So we really do to your point, what it takes to pull this off, is really complex on the backend. But at the end of the day, it’s got to be just simple and believable to the audience. And that’s exactly what we’re trying to do. We’re not trying to be voice and personality only interfacing, you know, touchscreen still have a great place, not everybody is comfortable talking, and especially when they’re trying to carry on a verbal conversation like you and I are having, and knowing that there’s a technology behind there. Sometimes there’s personal information that’s advocated for it, it’s needed, you know, checking in at a doctor’s office for it, but it’d be perfect. But not everybody wants to sit there and give their personal information in the lobby of the doctor’s office. So we’re not saying we’re applicable everywhere, but they’re very specific use cases that make that simplified interface. Very, very practical. Some of those I touched on earlier, general customer engagement, you know, when he talks about chatbots, and chat GP going on right now, you know, but But what if the Chatbot wasn’t something had to sit there and like people like me that have been in tech forever, I can take, you know, 135 words a minute, but not everybody wants to do that, to get the answers. They’re frustrating, because they’re, they’re not getting the customer service they need and they want to jump on a website and go, Hey, I need your help. Here’s what’s going on, tell me what to do. And although you can get a lot of that through chatbots, that’s not a that’s not a personality. That’s not a human engagement. That’s not a connection between you and your brand. Whether that brand is a commercial brand, like Disney, I’ll bring Disney up everybody knows Disney is one of the most beloved brands on the face of the earth. And it’s because everybody has an emotional bond to that company. Practical examples Flo, Flo, from progressive, the Geico Gecko, you know, there’s all these instances where people find that brand loyalty and brand trust is earned through the report and the personality behind that brand. So now, if we bring that into healthcare, like I mentioned, we’ve done probably 12, or 14 different clinical trials, where we’ve helped opioid addicted young females deal with babies born with addiction. And we’ve done that through a very targeted consent, where we give them the pros and cons of what they’re going to do in this trial, but to bring up hopefully not a politically incorrect example. But if you have a young female with a drug problem, having the children out of wedlock, that are addicted to drugs, are they going to want to sit there and talk to this 65 year old gray haired man you see behind the camera right now, and tell me why they made the decisions they made. They immediately feel judged, they immediately feel at ease. What’s this guy, I can’t relate to that guy, he doesn’t know what I’m going through, he knows nothing about me. He’s this old, you know, rich white guy sitting behind his desk and claiming to be CEO of a human AI company. What What, uh, what I want to tell him anything, and that’s, that’s a half joke, and I got a good chuckle out of you for it. But the reality is that that is reality. So we created a series of characters that were either Hispanic, Black, female, white, female, younger, generational, and they were very empathetic, and they’re very trustworthy. And ironically, there are clinical trials and clinical studies that support that human psychology that there is a trust and empathetic use for digital humans and digital personalities that were pretty

george grombacher 14:01
fascinating. And flow and the gecko are wonderful examples of theoretically speaking, I could go to the Geico website and then have an interaction with the gecko.

Unknown Speaker 14:14
How How fun would that be?

george grombacher 14:17
It will probably be more fun than dealing with some customer service person, regardless of what they look like.

Unknown Speaker 14:23
If you do get that opportunity. Someday, I was lucky enough to spend a little bit of time with them. I didn’t know because nobody really knows is the Geico Gecko, Australian accent or British accent? I don’t world may never know.

george grombacher 14:41
Yeah, the world may never know. Alright, so so. So what does the What does an engagement look like a company says this really interesting. Let’s just talk and you walk kind of walk us through that. We have a

Unknown Speaker 14:54
couple of use cases that bubble up to the top so at the general organizational level enterprise level, a company would come to us, we already have an impressive, we’re not trying to be targeted verticals, we’re really what we call a DSP. We’re an experienced platform, kind of a UX layer. If you remember way back in the day when first people were first using bulletin board systems, and all your online interactions were text. And then ooh, this wonderful thing called the internet came out. And there was this wonderful little language called HTML, that allowed you to create graphics and interface and create an actual user interface, regardless of what the content behind it is. So we’re really that same company, but we’re that company for this digital personality, digital human. If you’re an enterprise software company, or you’re a customer service related company, we’ve done work with like Ikea Wrangler, Pepsi, you name it, we’ve got a lot of early, it’s really early in the market, but a lot of early pilots and proof of concepts going on. So you would say, You know what, I’ve got all this great, wonderful, scalable technology. But how do I make it more usable by my customers? By my patients, by the traveling public? We’ve done several airports as well, um, hospitals, you know, how do you make all this great technology accessible, so they would come to us and we would have these, this API, this basically this layer, between their enterprise solution and their audience. And that layer is that communication layer. And it’s no longer limited to HTML, where I can throw up pictures and video clips and chat text box, now you can actually put a digital personality between you and your audience. And that’s where we fit into that ecosystem. Now, what we’ve done since we are pretty early in the market still, and we wanted to prove some verticals, and some use cases, we built specific use cases that we have a, I keep using the word passion, but let’s just say we have a belief that are wonderful use cases and will showcase what is really possible the art of the possible, as we say, and two of those are Wayfinding, which sounds really simple. But it’s a complex problem. Indoor Wayfinding, especially at like hospitals, we’re in the UK and some of the NHS Trust hospitals in Europe. And because they have a bigger language problem, we are not called problem. They have multiple, bigger language barrier, multiple languages they speak. So we’ve deployed over there. So if you’re walking into a hospital, and you’ve worked with a Wayfinding company, you would either go to a map, or you have to figure the map out, you have to punch buttons and try to find keywords and all with ours. As an example, you would walk up to the unit. They actually have a proximity. They know when you’re in front of them, and they’ll go Hi, welcome to hospital XYZ, what can I help you find? And it’s not just going, Hey, where are the bathrooms? Which she can answer that. But she’s more informational conversation. So you can literally say, hey, I need to get my prescription filled. She’ll say, Oh, well, you need the pharmacy, and the pharmacies down the hall to the left. And oh, by the way, scan your QR code and carry the map with you. Or I’m here for an appointment with Dr. Rinker, okay. Dr. Rinker is an imaging lab that’s upstairs on the seventh floor in the back. So it’s meant to be that level of service where the hospitals can have you can’t have a one to one engagement, you can’t hire enough staff to provide that sort of service. So it’s not about replacing the staff, but it’s about staff augmentation. So now, the argument we give or as to the ROI we give to enterprise customers are like, let’s take that scenario, we would say, well, because I’m a cancer survivor, my wife’s a cancer survivor. We spent, let’s say way too much time at MD Anderson over the last five years, dealing with huge campuses and medical facilities. And you’re in there, you’re in a state of mind, that’s not normal. And you’re trying to find out what’s going on. And our first intuition is to grab the first person wearing their scrubs or had the stethoscope around their neck and go, Hey, I need your help. We don’t know what their role is at the hospital. We don’t know what they’re interrupting. And what we’ve learned. Is that a significant portion of time, the staff is answering these basic customer service questions. So we’re really trying to remove what are the repetitive, mundane, low value transactions, that your high value personal collateral, your human collateral, the surgeons, the nurses, the health care professionals, the practitioners, the facilities, support personnel, everybody that’s in there has incredible value to the organization. And what if we could work with that organization and give them back 20 to 30% of that time, we can’t replace we’re not trying to replace humans are another productivity tool. Just like you got a computer in front of it. You got a headset with a microphone on your head. We’re just building them another productivity tools, ours to tap in to have a personality behind him in and have eyes and a mouth in the nose. But that’s just to enable that technology at a more human level.

george grombacher 20:09
Powerful. That’s a perfect example to illustrate to illustrate how it works. So thank you for that. Chuck, thank you so much for coming on. Where can people learn more about you? How can they engage with personas

Unknown Speaker 20:23
um, if you want to talk to me personally, I’m a big advocate of LinkedIn, you’ll find me and my LinkedIn profile Charles Rinker personas. But as far as learning about digital personalities in general, I’m real simple website personas.com prs ons.com. And if for those we really do have a belief that healthcare is a needle we can move and we have a desire and passion to improve outcomes and clinical trial and patients and wellness overall wellness and health. We all need a little bit of help in that category. So we do have a specific deployment of our personas personas engine for healthcare, we’ll call them iHealth assist the letter AI health just like it sounds and assist asis I helped the sis.com and now we’ll give you some use cases within health and wellness as well.

george grombacher 21:13
Excellent. Well, if you enjoyed as much as I did, sure, chuck your appreciation and share today’s show with a friend who also appreciates good ideas you could find chuck on LinkedIn under Charles Rinker, ra n ke our check out personas.com P r s o n a s.com if you’re more interested in the healthcare applications that we’ve been talking about, check out the letter AI health assist.com Thanks again Chuck.

Unknown Speaker 21:42
Thanks for your time towards take care.

george grombacher 21:44
Until next time, remember, do your part by doing your best

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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