Hey there, Virtual humans
#4 of my Tech Predictions for 2022
Computer Generated Individuals are taking jobs from celebrities, influencers, and pop stars, making a lot more than their real-life colleagues. Next up might be artificial humans entering the job market.
Have you met Lil Miquela? She´s 19 years old, half Spanish, half Brazilian. She´s on Spotify with her own songs — the most popular, called Money, has been played 2.8 million times. She´s a huge influencer with more than 3 million Instagram followers. Oh, and a minor detail: she only exists digitally. She is a computer-generated character. A brainchild of the LA-based company: Brud. And a great example of a new breed of virtual influencers.
If you follow her, you will see her wearing clothes from Brands like Calvin Klein, Nike, Chanel, and Givenchy while promoting products for Samsung. Since 2020 she has been on contract with the talent agency CAA, becoming its first virtual client. And being the highest-earning virtual influencer she is predicted to make almost £9million this year!
You could also join the 218.00 who follows Shudu — the world’s first Digital Supermodel.
Or the 13 million who follow the Brazilian computer-generated Influencer Lu do Magalu.
And there are many more. To get the full overview, check out Virtualhumans.org
Prada goes digital
Sounds crazy? Maybe, but it´s a new reality. As late as November 2021, Prada debuted a new digital muse for their perfume called Candy. She is very nature-like, but her light purple eye color might give her away.
Even Ikea decided to team up with virtual influencer Imma (@imma_gram) and had her move into their IKEA Harajuku store. Passersby could see her through the windows although it was just a clever projection like the one used for virtual concerts which I described in the article about Holoportation.
So, why this move? Well, models, actors, and now popular influencers are quite expensive and can be difficult to work with. And they have a tendency to run into scandals and controversies (Just think about Britney Spears caught drinking a coke while advertising for Pepsi or Nike sponsoring Oscar Pistorius). Not the case with digital models. They will allow companies a maximum of creative freedom. They guarantee a trouble-free experience for advertisers, and they might even appeal better to the Tiktok generation and generate higher engagement rates.
In China, this is of course already a big thing. they have been favoring virtual influencers looking like characters from the Japanese anime and Manga tradition.
The biggest stars in China right now would be Hatsune Miko, Noonoouri, and Luo Tianyi who is a so-called vocaloid, a computer-generated, voice-synthesized pop star. In 2019 she appeared live on stage with China’s top pianist Lang Lang.
Another popular virtual influencer is Kizuna AI who claims she is an AI. However, the reality is that a human voice actress named Nozomi Kasuga is the human behind the animated face during Kizuna’s live streams. But the fact that she appears in live streams and can interact with fans in real-time thanks to motion-capture technology, points to a near future where virtual influencers will begin to act as hosts at Livestream shopping events.
How far away are we from AI-based virtual influencers? One example is Alice, equipped with GPT-3 deep-learning technology which makes it possible for her to lead simple conversations (by the way, she was sold as an NFT at Sotheby’s for $ 500.000)
Are we ready for artificial humans?
But if we really want to see where the future is heading for Virtual Influencers, we should take a look at Samsung’s NEON project. It was first released as a concept in 2019 but is now very close to being a real solution with NEON Frame for physical outlets and NEON View for smartphones.
These artificial humans are computationally created, based on real human looks and behavior. They each have a different personality and might be your next airport clerk, bank assistant, or yoga teacher. Is this far away from reality? It´s hard to say since Samsung shares very little information about the project. But they claim it will be their boldest product launch ever.
Virtual humans — coming to a screen near you
No matter what, I predict that we will get to see many new virtual influencers, popstars, and workers in the coming years. Very soon we will experience how it is to interact and get inspired by someone that doesn´t exist IRL — not only as chatbots but also in digital flesh and blood. That will be a good practice before we all enter the Metaverse…