Conversive helps businesses build the virtual equivalent of face-to-face conversations

If you’ve ever interacted with a chatbot and felt like there was just something missing, the founders of a new startup called Conversive think they know the missing element — face-to-face interaction.

And that, essentially, is what they’re trying to enable with their technology. Conversive customers can create a character (animated or recorded human) to represent them, place that character in a three-dimensional environment and then build out a whole conversational flow.

The end result for consumers is a “generated person” (as co-founder and Chief Revenue Officer Kevin Lenane described it) that they can talk to, verbally or not, as if they were having a conversation with a real person. That conversation might take place in virtual reality, on an Apple TV or on a mobile or desktop website.

“At a very high level, Conversive is literally a conversation engine,” Lenane said. “It enables businesses to facilitate one-on-one communication with individuals.”

Despite Conversive’s use of machine learning and natural language technology, I don’t think most of you will be under any illusion that you’re having a conversation with a live human being. Still, Lenane said it still feels closer to the real thing because so much information gets communicated nonverbally, through things like facial expressions and eye movement.

Lenane’s co-founder and CEO Kevin Cornish added that it’s wrong to think of these as fake conversations, since they are communicating real messages to your questions. He compared it to sending an email, where the message isn’t any less genuine because it goes out to multiple recipients.

“It’s not that these people aren’t real — they are real people,” Cornish said. “It’s just the conversation is happening asynchronously … It’s this idea of scaling conversation.”

Before starting Conversive, Lenane was a co-founder at Veenome, which was acquired by Integral Ad Science, while Cornish is founder of the VR agency Moth + Flame.

The first project powered by Conversive falls on the VR side. It comes from Oculus and Tool of North America, and it’s called “Fall in Love.” Basically, it’s a VR conversation that recreates the 36 questions that are supposed to lead to love — you can try out a version of “Fall in Love” in the embedded video below.

Conversive’s technology can work inside a standard video ad unit, but Lenane emphasized that it’s not just for advertising. He said he’s already talking to potential clients in employee training, and he also sees opportunities in sales and customer service.

The startup has raised more than $600,000 in initial funding.