AI-Powered Digital People

Apr 11, 2020 · 4 min read

People around the world enjoy “virtual human” characters, whether in Hollywood films, Japanese anime, or video games. In recent years, AI-powered virtual humans have increasingly insinuated themselves into our daily lives. The virtual pop icon Teresa Teng has performed songs with Taiwanese singer Jay Chou, achieving huge success. The popular Chinese debate show “I CAN I BB” hosted a spirited episode on whether “Falling in love with an AI human can be considered true love or not,” where many people argued it is possible for a human to fall in love with an AI.

Are there limits to such human-machine relationships? That’s hard to say, as we’re both still getting to know each other. Synced has identified some interesting AI-powered virtual humans to introduce to our readers.

Artificial Anchor Works for Chinese Official Organization

Chinese state-run media company Xinhua worked with the search engine company to develop the AI anchors Qiu Hao and Xin Xiaomeng. They can speak both English and Mandarin, and read texts input into the system by news editors — working with the Xinhua news team to provide “authoritative, timely and accurate news.” The AI anchors were developed using machine learning algorithms to simulate and synthesize the voice, facial movements, lip movements and gestures of real-life news broadcasters to make the virtual anchors less robotic and more lifelike and familiar. Xinhua says the AI anchors can work 24/7, reducing news production costs, improving efficiency, and reducing the pressure on human anchors.

AI Host Spring Festival Gala

US-based AI company ObEN was inspired by cofounders’ desire “to remain connected with their families when they travelled on business, by allowing them to leave behind a virtual copy of themselves.” The company’s decentralized AI platform for Personal AI (PAI) uses internally developed technology to create intelligent 3D avatars enables which look, sound, and behave like the user. The company’s celebrity AIs are created from 3D camera scans.

Popular ObEN products include artificial hosts Beining Sa, Xun Zhu, Bo Gao, and Yang Long, who have hosted the Chinese Network Spring Festival Gala. AI technologies including machine learning, computer vision, NLP, and speech synthesis are applied to build the virtual copies of the celebrities from the ground up. These 3D avatars are much more sophisticated than simple computer-generated avatars, and also interact well with others.

AI-Powered Avatars Gave TED Talk

DigiDoug, a virtual version of Dr. Doug Roble and the first digital human to give a TED Talk in real time, was developed by California-based Digital Domain. The real Roble’s facial emotions and movements are captured by a special motion capture suit camera, and data is transferred to machine learning software where is translated to a rendered digital human in real time using Nvidia RTX technology and the Epic Game’s unreal engine. The Digital Domain research team developed the deep neural network that generates the facial expressions and physical and motion details etc. that make DigiDoug behave in a more humanlike way.

Future Trends in AI-Powered Digital Persons

AI technologies have already achieved an unprecedented level of photorealism in their characters. In the future, creating digital humans based on human celebrities will allow entertainment companies to create novel opportunities for fans to interact with their idols. For instance, ZTAO’s Man, a 3D animation based on famous C-Pop singer Huang Zitao, can dance with fans. AI-powered digital humans are also expected to further penetrate and promote live stream and video-on-demand content in the AR and VR markets.

Author: Leyi Hu | Editor: Michael Sarazen

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