Soul Machines: Humanising AI interactions with secure cloud-based global innovation
minutes and under for employee onboarding compared to more than one day previously
return on Okta Workflow automation cost through gains achieved by freedom from mundane tasks
automation of access permissions through Workflows and HR as a source
- Driving AI's new user interface with global team of innovators
- An identity platform that's about empowerment not box ticking
- Enabling secure global collaboration with confidential IP assets
- Freeing up creative team from mundane tasks to drive AI innovation
- Unlimited potential for innovation with versatile identity management
Soul Machines is an AI company putting a friendly face on human-machine collaboration. As it took its technology to market, it needed to expand its circle of Auckland researchers into a global network of business strategists, digital artists, marketers, salespeople, scientists and more. That required a world-class identity management solution to protect its groundbreaking intellectual property while enabling frictionless creative global collaboration.
In seeking a workforce identity solution, Soul Machines wanted more than a platform that "ticked the security and compliance boxes." It sought holistic workforce identity rooted in empowering people through free-flowing yet secure inspiration exchange. After canvassing solutions, Soul Machines found only Okta Identity Cloud, in collaboration with Auth0, shared this vision of identity empowerment, leading to a partnership that enabled the growth of a global brain network driving the future of AI engagement.
From a 60-person outfit of mainly R&D engineers, Soul Machines deployed Okta workforce identity solutions to securely and rapidly onboard a global staff spanning North America, Asia, and Europe. A combination of HR as a source and Okta Workflows enabled Soul Machines to overcome the twin challenges of seamless access controls and confidential IP asset sharing in close global collaboration.
From requiring a day or more to onboard a staffer, it now takes less than 40 minutes to set up a worker with all permissions; deprovisioning is even simpler, with access denied in a few clicks. The most profound enterprise success has been a cycle of snowballing advantages that empower creative leaders to drive innovation, instead of getting bogged down by mundane tasks. Soul Machines estimates this has yielded a 3x return on the costs of Okta Workflows automation.
The Soul Machines journey with Okta and Auth0 is only beginning. It plans to further free up creative processes by moving to other Okta feature sets. More broadly, Soul Machines envisions a conceptual shift beyond identity management to viewing Okta as "as a request mechanism for most of our internal resources, if not all."
Seamless app integration, confidential information exchange, automated access control. These enable our global team to work in the most proactive, collaborative manner possible. With Okta and Auth0 joining forces, we can also look forward to more options and flexibility to innovate.
Sam Brightheart, Director of Information Technology, Soul Machines
Transforming AI in a secure infrastructure
Millions of movie lovers around the world have encountered the work of Mark Sagar, whose computer animations on Hollywood blockbusters such as Avatar and King Kong have won Oscars.
Mark is also CEO and founder of New Zealand AI company Soul Machines, which brings his technology to everyday life with ultra-realistic "digital people" who interact naturally, intelligently, and emotively with humans – in much the same way his animated creations bond with Hollywood stars.
Imagine a friendly digital helper popping up on your tablet to answer questions on financial planning. Or a humanoid celebrity chef who not only teaches great lasagna technique, but reads your facial expressions to make sure you're following. This is the "new AI user interface" that Mark and his team are creating for human-machine relations.
When Soul Machines launched in 2016, it began developing its "virtual nervous system" (based on a proprietary functional brain model) at New Zealand's Auckland Biotechnology Institute, with on-premise servers and security protocols. Things changed dramatically as the startup prepared to go to market, deploying its "digital people'' in everything from virtual assistant to online medical consultations.
From a 60-person outfit of mainly R&D engineers, Soul Machines needed to recruit dozens of staff, including business strategists, marketers, digital artists, salespeople, and scientists, from North America to Asia to Europe. This required migration from its on-prem environment to a cloud architecture that would enable seamless and scalable cooperation among a fast-growing team.
Intellectual property (IP) is the lifeblood of Soul Machines. And a major challenge emerged in securely onboarding its expanding global talent pool, then allowing staff to share critical assets with maximum safety and minimal friction. Critical business applications for communication, cloud resource provisioning, and sales needed to be securely integrated. Crucially, Soul Machines sought precision control over access to cascading levels of sensitive information, based on the individual's role within the organisation.
Soul Machines decided it needed a centralised identity management solution to resolve these challenges. And it was looking for more than a platform that "ticked the security and compliance boxes." Instead, it sought holistic workforce identity rooted in empowering people through free-flowing yet secure inspiration exchange. After canvassing solutions, Soul Machines found that both Okta and Auth0 shared this vision of identity empowerment. Together, the two solutions provided Soul Machines with a partnership that enabled growth and allowed the team to focus on a global brain network driving the future of AI engagement.
"What clinched our decision to tap on Okta was it offered a true empowerment and automation tool enabling innovative minds to get where they need to go faster, "says Sam Brightheart, Director of Information Technology, Soul Machines. "Seamless app integration, confidential information exchange, automated access control. These enable our global team to work in the most proactive, collaborative manner possible. With Okta and Auth0 joining forces, we can also look forward to more options and flexibility to innovate.”
Managing surging staffing needs with real-time onboarding/offboarding on HR as a source
For Brightheart, Okta's empowerment potential was driven home one weekend hiking with his family. On top of a mountain, Brightheart received an urgent message that a contractor in the United States needed their access adjusted urgently. At Soul Machines, the management of privileged access is critical due to the high value of their IP and commitment to protecting confidential information.
Okta's HR as a source is a centralised workforce management architecture that integrates and streamlines all HR processes including third-party applications. It enabled Brightheart to manage access immediately, over mobile data and on top of a mountain – and saved his weekend.
"All I had to do was take my smartphone, load up my Okta admin page, push a few buttons, and it was done. In the past I would have had to cut short the family hike, and spend the rest of the day dealing with this situation," says Brightheart. "Here I don't even have to ring another member of the IT team. It's just done. From an information-security point of view, it's deeply empowering to have that control."
The operational gains Soul Machines has achieved through HR as a source have been significant. From requiring a whole day, and often more, to onboard staff, it now takes less than 40 minutes to set up a worker with all permissions and required application access. That's soon moving to 15 minutes as more responsibility shifts to the HR department. In deprovisioning, things are even simpler. Access is denied in most cases with just a few clicks.
Unleashing dynamic cycles of productivity growth with Okta automation
The deepest empowerment, says Brightheart, comes through positive knock-on effects achieved with Okta automation. When the CTO of Soul Machines asked for a cost-benefit analysis of purchasing HR as a source, for example, Brightheart was able to lay out a powerful argument of snowballing advantages.
With HR as a source, Soul Machines would be able to slash onboarding to under 15 minutes, offsetting the product cost in labor time saved alone. The opportunity benefit of freeing HR to work on creative tasks would in turn doubles business value. The biggest benefit would be to free leadership from the cumbersome HR communication chain.
"Removing this mundane chore from the plate of mission leaders means they can use that time for driving innovation. That translates into concrete gains for the organisation – easily triple the cost of the product," says Brightheart. "Seen in this way, it was an easy sell. Our CTO immediately said, OK go for it."
In addition to HR as a source, Soul Machines has found Workflows to be an invaluable automation tool for access management. Previously, Soul Machines relied on an email trail to pinpoint who requested access to a file, who was the designated approver, when the decision was executed, and how much access was granted.
"We couldn't even entrust this process to Slack because we felt we needed a paper trail for permissions to confidential resources," recalls Brightheart. "That became a strain on the top levels of management, and on top of that it wasn't secure."
Now Soul Machine achieves both efficiency and security with automated role-based access control on Workflows. The organisation only needs to fill in a template with each employee's role and profile attributes, and the tool subsequently automates all authorisations (or denials). What's more, it generates an auditable trail of permissions, without relying on email chains that can easily fall into the wrong hands. "With Workflows, we can save precious contact time for the creative matters that really count, while staying more secure," says Brightheart.
Unlimited opportunities for creative empowerment with Okta's versatile menu of solutions
The Soul Machines journey with Okta is only beginning. The company plans to further free up creative processes by adopting other Okta feature sets. This is expected not only to streamline operations, but also boost security scoring for compliance and client trust. That's because passwords are increasingly recognised as one of the least safe methods of authentication. It will be a significant step toward adoption of an overall Zero Trust identity management strategy.
The collaboration with Auth0 also provides our developers with easy-to-use building blocks that deliver excellent experiences for customers. “With Okta and Auth0 joining forces, we can better align and integrate solutions across the business on both the internal, and external side.”
More broadly, Soul Machines envisions a conceptual shift beyond identity management to viewing Okta as "as a request mechanism for most of our internal resources, if not all."
"We foresee evolving our Okta deployment to include automated approvals for things like budget requests or AWS instance provisioning, based on role or access groups," says Brightheart. "So there's really no end to the way we can see Okta empowering our workforce in creative ways."
About Soul Machines
Soul Machines is a leader in the creation of autonomously animated digital people in the digital worlds of today and the metaverse. The company brings digital workforces to life for some of the biggest brands in the world as they imagine and innovate the future of brand interaction and personal customer experience in the way they do business. Soul Machines is creating digital twins of celebrities to reimagine the future of digital entertainment and fan engagement. For more about Soul Machines, visit www.soulmachines.com