Digital avatars, the future of human interaction
The rise of advanced deep-learning techniques in the past couple of years has paved the way for AI-powered digital avatars that mirror real-life human beings. What seemed like science fiction a few decades ago is now not only possible but accessible to a wider range of people. Digital avatars generated by current AI tech seem to have left the uncanny valley in the rearview mirror. Even with hype levels skyrocketing through the roof, questions remain: Where is this technology heading, and more importantly, what can a digital avatar do for you and your business?
Humans.ai is a deep tech company that is marrying artificial intelligence with blockchain technology to create the AIverse, an all-in-one AI ecosystem that encompasses a myriad of tools dedicated to creating, supporting and securing the development of AI.
Inside the AIverse, people can find the firsts digital avatars created with the technology developed by Humans.ai that can speak in multiple languages of the world. An example of a digital avatar created using the technological stack from the AIverse, is a digital rendition of a Dutch journalist Welmoed Sijtsma, who had her voice and face cloned to create a digital avatar of herself fluent in Mandarin and Portuguese to be used live on TV.
Humans.ai gives access to an innovative and streamlined AI ecosystem that allows anyone, regardless of their tech skills, to create a unique digital avatar that can be used to work, play and socialize in the Metaverse. Humans.ai’s approach to artificial intelligence helps democratize this technology, making it easy for anyone to access, own and contribute to its development, all while ensuring its ethical use.
Before delving into the utility of this tech and the potential use cases it can serve, let’s look at what a digital avatar is. In its most basic form, a digital avatar can be a profile picture, a two-dimensional image, or an icon representing a user on social media platforms or other similar applications.
But the digital avatars of the future are much more interesting than a profile picture. They are virtual 3D models, perfect renditions of an existing human or a digitally created human. One good example of a digital avatar is characters we can control in an immersive video game.
Today’s digital avatars are not only about entertainment. They are extensions of ourselves that help enhance our experiences and reshape the way we work, socialize, learn and connect with each other.
If we dial back two decades, back when the Internet was still in its formative years, and people were still trying to get the hang of it, we would be greeted by a familiar picture. Back then, bots, software applications designed to simulate human activities that ran automated tasks over the Internet, were all the rage.
As time passed and AI evolved as a technology, these ghosts that resided inside machines got faces and, more recently, bodies of their own. There are multiple good reasons behind this continued trend of humanizing human-computer interaction. An increasing body of evidence, both from the academic and business spheres, supports the idea that digital avatars boost customer satisfaction, experience, and an overall increase in sales.
There is data to back this hypothesis. A survey conducted by PwC in 2018 highlights that 75% of customers and consumers, in general, respond better to human interaction. Along the same lines, research from Newcastle University underlines that something as trivial as attaching a pair of eyeballs to a donation bucket in a supermarket can lead to a 48% increase in donations.
Unsurprisingly, the potential to unlock new opportunities and business momentum has attracted the attention of entertainment and retail companies, including venture capitalists eager to back projects focused on digital avatars.
When it comes to technology, its inherent value is directly related to what use cases it can serve. By themselves, digital avatars constitute a strong medium through which companies can humanize their brands and connect with their followers or create entirely new ways for customers to experience their products.
Furthermore, with the Metaverse so close to our doorstep, it’s safe to assume that digital avatars will play an essential role in shaping how we interact, work, and play in the digital world.
If you were using Microsoft Office in the early 2000s, you are likely familiar with Clippy, the anthropomorphic paper clip that light-heartedly tapped your screen to offer mostly ineffective advice on grammar, spelling, text formatting and everything in between. Besides being mostly a distraction and a relative nuisance, Clippy ranks among the first examples of a virtual assistant.
It was Microsoft’s attempt to bridge the gap between the latest technology and a whole generation of adults who were illiterate with computers. Fast forward ten or so years, and we saw the emergence of Siri, Cortana and Alexa, some of the most popular virtual assistants on the market that have become the staple of many households.
Even so, the most popular examples of virtual assistants on the market are still disembodied voices eager to serve. The advances in AI technology can help give these virtual assistants a 3D body, making them easier to use and connect with people.
A study focused on a British multinational hotel group that implemented an AI-powered virtual assistant called Amelia showcases the usefulness and adaptability of this kind of tech. According to the report, Amelia is achieving over 90% accuracy on queries, learned 50 new processes in a month and is doing 32% of the total workload, a value that is steadily increasing.
LilMiquela, Bermuda, and Blawko are a trio of synthetic characters with distinct personalities, backstories, and interrelationships that have taken Instagram by storm, showing that you don’t need to be a real person to make a splash on social media or, most notably, to have lucrative collaborations with worldwide brands like Prada and Calvin Klein.
There is also the example of Shudu, which is considered by many the world’s first digital supermodel who collaborated with brands like Balmain and Fenty Beauty. This is by no means an exhaustive list, as there are more examples of virtual influencers. The idea is to show that digital avatar technology holds the potential to reshape the influencer marketing industry.
Shooting a video ad for your company or product is labor-intensive, expensive, and usually inaccessible to small or medium businesses. Digital avatars offer a new and friendlier approach to advertising.
Companies can access AI creation ecosystems like Humans.ai’s AIverse to create a digital representation of a person to act as a brand ambassador for their product. Removing the time-consuming and expensive equipment involved in video recording makes the whole process simpler and affordable.
With the AIverse, you only need to record a few lines to generate your unique digital avatar and personal actor who can speak any language. With a few text inputs, you can generate a video and make your product stand out by reaching a wider audience. Businesses can link their website inside the AIverse and have their newly created digital avatar describe their products or services without needing to involve any actors or filming crews.
This is already happening. Former “Game of Thrones” star Maisie Williams was turned into a digital avatar as part of her new role as Global Sustainability Ambassador at H&M. Her digital avatar is helping transform the fashion industry by promoting the use of recycled and sustainable sourced materials.
Gaming has witnessed a meteoric rise in popularity and profitability, cementing itself as a billion-dollar industry catering to a global audience. New game engines enable gaming companies to create stunning worlds players can explore and interact in.
Even with all the high tech behind it, the gaming industry is severely lacking in the immersion department. For years companies offered in-game custom character creation tools for players to spend hours creating their unique characters. Digital avatars can take this experience to a whole new level by enabling players to create a carbon copy of themselves that lives inside the gaming world, creating the ultimate immersive experience.
The up-and-coming Metaverse will allow players to interact with each other in a vast set of interconnected worlds, basically allowing players to upload themselves and interact with other people in this new and exciting online medium.
The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) signals that dementia has become widespread throughout the world, particularly affecting highly industrialized nations like Japan and countries from Western Europe. Trials show that digital avatars can help alleviate the suffering of people with dementia. Communication with a loved one is a proven way to help people battling dementia.
A digital avatar designed to look and act like a departed spouse, for example, can help dementia patients cope with their condition by stimulating them through dialogue.
The effects of digital avatars are also explored on people with other chronic conditions like autism and hyperactivity. For example, researchers are using this technology to see how patients react toward their digital twins to analyze their attitudes toward themselves and determine their condition. Studies also show promising results concerning the use of digital avatars to teach social skills and interactions in children with autism.
Digital avatars are the key to unlocking the future of the services industries. Not everyone seems to be eager to embrace this future, as there is a common misplaced fear in this sector that AI-based solutions will slowly render human employees obsolete and unemployed.
This is far from the truth, as most of these AI solutions, including digital avatars, are meant to support employees by taking a portion of their workload, in particular menial and repetitive tasks. The first services industries that will be impacted by digital avatars are:
· Banking — a 3D virtual assistant can help customers with financial transactions and account information or inform them about new offers.
· Retail — digital avatars can inform and offer customers detailed information about the products sold, offering a full browsing experience they would get in a real shop. In an online clothing store, customers can use a digital avatar of themselves to try on different clothes to see what works with their style without needing to leave the comfort of their homes.
· Restaurants — digital avatars can help customers place their orders and give recommendations and other useful information like potential allergens or what vegetarian or vegan options are available.
Although civil servants are indispensable to society, it is difficult and inconvenient to deal with them and all the paperwork involved, not to mention the long queues. A digital civil servant can be used to interact with the public and streamline the whole process by moving all the paperwork to a digital format. Furthermore, a digital avatar can help multiple people at the same time, which will take long queues out of the picture.
Museums usually give visitors a headset to listen through which they can listen to a brief description of the exhibits. Digital avatars can make the experience more immersive by giving a body to the voice. Even better, digital avatars can be made to look like real-life people.
You can have Michelangelo talk about how he painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel or see and hear the Founding Fathers talk about the Revolution that brought independence to Great Britain’s American colonies in the late 18th century, hear Steve Jobs talk about Apple’s early days, the list is potentially infinite with use cases in this area. But if museums aren’t your cup of tea, digital avatars can work just as well as a guide in a natural reservation, airport or even a shopping mall to help give people the layout of the place.
Dalí lives is an AI project that demonstrates the power of AI and digital avatars. Visitors of the Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, can experience the surrealist painter’s bigger-than-life personality in an up-and-close personal way and see and listen to how he explains the motivations behind his masterpieces.
We’ve all been there at some point in our lives. You get hired, and the first thing that happens in the first few days is induction training, where you get a feel of the new workplace and get to know the ropes. All is good and well, but the issue is that this whole process usually takes the shape of a long-winded email that has a few PDFs attached to it to make sure that you get bored to death.
Wouldn’t it be a more humanized and personal experience if someone from the company, preferably an important figure like the CEO, take the time to make a quick tour of the place? It is highly unlikely that will ever happen, but digital avatars are the next best solution.
A digital avatar of the CEO, for example, can take on the job of induction training and help the new employee understand how things work inside the company, get a taste of the organizational culture and make the overall experience more enjoyable. Larger companies usually have offices spread throughout the world, making language barriers a real obstacle between offices.
With the technology found inside the Humans AIverse, companies and businesses can create a digital avatar depicting their CEO or an entirely new persona that can speak in any language in the world to conduct training.
This tech can serve multiple HR use cases. Sometimes it’s not easy working in HR as you get to be the bearer of bad news. A digital avatar can help HR staff work on their communication skills, helping them develop more tact and sympathy when delivering difficult conversations. The AI behind the digital avatar can be trained to react to the way the message was delivered and formulate a realistic response, giving HR people a chance to exercise their skills and make the situation more tolerable for both parties.
Emojis have been a staple in our online communication for quite some time, but what if we can make an emoji of ourselves and send it to our friends and families?
Digital avatars can change the emoji game. People can use this digital representation of themselves and create unique emojis of their avatars in different poses and clothes. Again, the Metaverse comes to mind as a suitable environment for this type of use case.
Also, with a digital version of yourself, you can tackle official and casual communications, helping you concentrate on your busy schedule or relax doing whatever you like.
Digital avatars are poised to take the world by storm due to their flexibility to fit into almost any imaginable use case. Brands and companies seem to be the first to adopt and implement this powerful technology to enhance customer experience and reinvent how they connect and interact with people.
Taking into consideration how AI has advanced in recent years, it’s very likely that this technology will soon be available to anyone. Humans.ai is setting the groundwork for this future with its AIverse, one AI at a time.
Creating your digital avatar has never been so easy. Using our technology, you can replicate yourself and win precious time you can spend with your friends and family while your Digital Self will take on the boring aspects of your life and perform a part of your work and tasks in the near future. We are only at the beginning of a new era, where AI will become an extension of ourselves.