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NZ Police trials digital assistant 'Ella', built by Soul Machines

A digital customer service agent known as ‘Ella’ has been developed for the New Zealand Police by Soul Machines.

‘Ella’ is an autonomously animated Digital Hero developed by Soul Machines, the New Zealand company re-imagining how humans collaborate with machines.

‘Ella’ (which stands for Electronic Life-Like Assistant) will be stationed in the lobby of Police’s National Headquarters for a three-month trial beginning Thursday, February 13, 2020, assisting the concierge team and talking to visitors about Police services.

Ella was announced alongside Police Connect, electronic service points that are also being trialled to provide non-emergency services to the public 24 hours a day.

The two trials are part of a programme of work to modernise Police’s service delivery and showcase how Police is exploring digital technologies to develop future proofed and people focused non-emergency services that are accessible to everyone in New Zealand, according to a statement.

Commissioner Bush says, “We know that across the country people still want to engage face-to-face with local police in their community, and we will always do this.

“But technology is transforming the way the public want and expect to interact with organisations and their services - and Police is no different. We’ve achieved a lot this past year with the 105 non-emergency number, online reporting and NZ Police app making it easier for the public to access and receive the services and information they want, when they want, and in the ways that suit them.

“But we’re very much just starting this journey, as Police Connect, Ella and other modern digital technologies present many more exciting opportunities for us to provide new and improved policing services.”

Soul Machines cofounder and chief business officer Greg Cross says, “Everyone at Soul Machines is thrilled and honoured that Commissioner Bush and New Zealand Police are exploring ‘Ella’ and our technology.

“As an advanced AI research company with proud roots in New Zealand, having the opportunity to launch one of our digital heroes to help and assist our Police force is a privilege. We look forward to expanding this partnership which showcases the best of New Zealand to the world.”