Malta launches Marija, the country’s first Virtual Citizen, a World’s first.
VisitMalta has launched last week the first-ever Virtual Citizen at a conference organised by the Ministry for Tourism and Consumer Protection on the Digital Tourism Roadmap 2030.
Marija will bring together the infinite possibilities of artificial intelligence, incorporating them with a new immersive experience allowing everyone to access a wealth of information about Malta.
Marija is an interactive AI-powered virtual being ready to help all tourists who want to learn more about Malta’s rich history and everything happening on the Maltese Islands. While she is only a month old and has just begun her learning journey, that knowledge base will grow over time, expanding her understanding of everything in Malta.
Marija will also be available on a mobile application, accessible in multiple languages to enhance visitors’ journey at any venue. Thanks to this technology, Marija will be able to interact in real-time and answer any questions and will also be able to throw in a joke or two in the mix.
Marija is a mix of art and science built through a meticulous, creative process. VisitMalta, in collaboration with Reimagine AI, created hundreds of 2D AI-generated models that were narrowed down to a single image. This image was then brought to life in 3D to have Marija look like a typical Maltese woman, with characteristics and features associated with the Mediterranean region.
The language was also crucial in the development process. A specific lexicon system was custom-built to consider the pronunciation of Maltese words and the particularities of the vocabulary that are synonymous with a typical Maltese conversation. Marija’s neural synthesized voice, which speaks English with a Maltese accent, is based on the voice of a Maltese content creator who recorded many hours of dialogue, and from those recordings, an AI duplicate voice was created. This voice now lives on independently from the original recordings and can vocalize any new information Marija needs to learn and say in the future.
“Integrating technology with Maltese tourism is the way forward in this age of acceleration. What was once known as a barren rock in the middle of the Mediterranean today is not only one of Europe’s best performers in economic growth but is now climbing up the ladder to become a digital bastion on the international stage. Our sureness of touch, steadfastness, and the ability to bridge alliances together in these difficult times, are those likely to see us continue to steer Malta as a go-to-country in the digital world,” highlighted Minister for Tourism and Consumer Protection, Clayton Bartolo.
“VisitMalta is looking at this project as another opportunity through which the Maltese touristic product is being developed, by becoming more relevant to the 21st century. In a nutshell, Marija will become an experience which is guaranteed to bring together art and artificial intelligence to provide a holistic and exciting human experience,” Mr. Johann Buttigieg, CEO of VisitMalta, stated.
“Malta is truly a visionary country. It is a great destination for leisure, fun, business, and innovation. This project was a great testament to the country’s vision and implementation of a solid national digital strategy. We are proud to have worked closely with VisitMalta in creating Marija, a purpose-driven and socially interactive AI-powered virtual being we believe will continue establishing Malta as a true next-generation visitor experience destination. We build the interface between AI and the human experience, and we are incredibly excited to help Marija continue to learn and evolve. Marija is the perfect medium to tell the Maltese story and connect in a meaningful way with everyone who comes in contact with her. AI is the future of storytelling, and Malta is at the forefront of it all.” Says David Usher, President of Reimagine.