Since their inception in 2014, non-fungible tokens (NFTs) have taken the crypto market by storm, rapidly becoming one of the most coveted forms of digital assets. The NFT market soared in popularity last year, with the market capitalization crossing $41 billion in 2021, a new study finds.
With such large figures in play, it’s only natural to ask what’s next for the NFT scene? Will these digital collectables become the new art movement of the future, or is there something more to them than meets the eye?
Humans.ai is a company that leverages blockchain technology and artificial intelligence (AI) to enhance the standard NFT and expand its functionality, transforming it from a static art form to an interactive and intelligent asset class capable of encapsulating neural networks or segments of a person’s digital DNA.
We call this technology AI NFTs, a new type of NFT that enables people to use their biometric data to create artificial intelligence solutions that are kept ethical by a complex governance, consensus and verification mechanism.
A brief history of NFTs
The history of NFTs began in May 2014 with Kevin McCoy, who minted “Quantum”, the first non-fungible token, thus paving the way towards a new era of digital assets.
NFTs are a unique asset class that lives on top of a blockchain network which makes them scarce, provable and valuable. In time, NFT’s have cemented themselves as a new medium through which artists and content creators can package and monetize their works. Because they exist inside a blockchain network, NFTs benefit from in-depth transparency into their authenticity and provenance purchases.
As opposed to traditional forms of art, when purchasing NFTs, you aren’t purchasing just the art piece. You are also buying the underlying code and the property rights of the artwork. So, by design NFTs empower artists by enabling them to authenticate their works through the information stored inside the blockchain, creating a transparent chain of ownership.
Whenever an NFT changes hands, the new owner and the price paid is automatically recorded on the blockchain, which acts as a distributed ledger where the information is distributed to every user to ensure transparency, integrity and authenticity.
“What if I screenshot an NFT without purchasing it?” is one of the first questions that usually come to mind when people debate about NFTs. This is similar to going into a museum and taking pictures of the exhibits. You will have a copy of the art piece, but you will not be the owner because the certificate of authenticity resides in the blockchain, which is composed of thousands of computer nodes, meaning that the certificate that proves who is the owner of the respective NFT resides on thousands of computers that comprise a network that is always up and impossible to alter or erase.
When Artificial Intelligence meets NFTs
As with any new technology, people will always look for innovative ways to tinker with it and explore new avenues of applicability. NFTs are no exception. Recently, more and more artists and NFT enthusiasts have experimented with AI and NFTs, bridging the two technologies together to usher in a new genre of art created by machines.
As innovative as this new subset of NFTs may seem, one question still remains — “What can you do with them?” Besides obvious answers like “collecting them” or “It’s art. It’s meant to look pretty and with some luck increase in value in time.”, the bottom line is that at the end of the day, they are still JPGs or GIFs that offer little in terms of functionality.
Here is where Humans.ai comes with its own take on AI NFTs, which differs drastically from what is currently available on the market.
Human digital DNA inside AI NFTs
Humans.ai’s ambition is to enable each and every person in the world to contribute their digital DNA, pieces of biometric data such as voice, gestures, the way of being, and so on and to encapsulate this information inside an AI NFT that acts as a foundation for the development of new artificial intelligence products that are kept honest and ethic by real humans.
“The idea of Humans.ai is to allow all these contributions to come together so that we can assemble a critical mass that will produce an impact on society”, explains Nicu Sebe, Head of AI at Humans.ai.
With the digital DNA encapsulated in AI NFTs, Humans.ai ushers in a new wave of synthetic media, in which real humans can leverage their unique features to generate a digital avatar that can speak in different languages and contexts, all while their information is kept secure by a blockchain framework.
The winning idea of Humans.ai is to put together the innovative fields of artificial intelligence and non-fungible tokens, respectively blockchain technology, to create AI NFTs, a new type of asset class that enables anyone to own a piece of AI and determine how it will be used. With the technology developed by Humans.ai, NFTs are transformed from a static art form to a complex instrument that enables the creation of AI that generates real-world value.
AI made for every human
Although AI has been with us for more than sixty years, people still see this technology as deeply rooted in the realm of science fiction. The idea of interacting with a complex form of AI, not to mention owning one, seems like a possibility rooted in the distant future. One of the strong points of the Humans.ai ecosystem is that it allows people who do not have a tech background to interact, own and contribute to the AI development process.
Commenting on this aspect, Nicu Sebe underlines the fact that “You don’t need to be an AI developer or a developer per se. You can, in a seamless way, make your own contribution. It could be data labelling; it could also be information know-how, and so on. We take your contribution into our platform and use it with other technologies to create high level and more complex systems.”
In the Humans.ai ecosystem, the AI creation process belongs to researchers specialized in AI, but the governance of AI falls to users who can log in to the Humans.ai platform and leverage their biometric data to control and manage different pieces of AI. As such, users are not expected to dig too deep into how their information is used, as they are offered a high-level interface through which they can provide their information.
This design choice enables users who do not have a strong knowledge of AI to contribute to the development process through a streamlined and intuitive interface. “Practically what we are doing is giving users ownership over their information, empowering them to use it in a more complex system to achieve something that otherwise they would be unable to do”, added Sebe.
AI-powered digital avatars, the first use case for the Humas.ai technology
The initial focus of the Humans.ai team is to animate digital avatars, AI-generated talking heads that can use the biometric data encapsulated inside an AI NFT. This initial use case allows users to insert text input which will be converted into audio that will be spoken by the digital avatar.
The animated avatar is designed according to the user’s preferences and can be instructed to speak in multiple languages. Using the information provided by its user base, the technology developed by Humans.ai can be used to generate a digital clone of a particular user that can speak in different languages.
Each language has its own facial expressions and lip movements that are translated automatically by the system when the language is chosen. As such, the technology developed by Humans.ai not only generates a digital avatar that can talk in multiple languages but also adapts the lip-synch to fit the language that is spoken, rendering an avatar that can be mistaken for a real person.
One product that uses the technology developed by Humans.ai is Tovid.ai, a project that helps leverage the full potential of AI. At the moment of writing, Tovid.ai is in a mature stage of development, already garnering the attention of several companies interested in utilizing this technology in advertising. Tovid.ai works by taking a text input and converting it to audio that is spoken by a digital talking head.
“So far, this technology has been very well received by the market. I believe our solution has the power to be generic and to be very easily customizable to address what the user wants to do”, stated Nicu Sebe.
The road ahead
The generation of AI-based talking heads is only the first iteration of the Humans.ai technology, as the team intends to extend the concept further to create in the long term full-body avatars.
Another challenge is to integrate cross model integration between different modalities, namely to expand the system to facilitate the conversion of text to video, video to text, audio to text, and so on. The goal of the minds behind the Humans.ai project is to create a complete system that will, in some sense, mimic the way that users will communicate. By putting all these different modalities together, Humans.ai strives to enable the creation and animation of full-body human avatars that users can own and use.
Discussing the plans of Humans.ai, the Head of AI shared his point of view concerning the trajectory of future developments: “I believe that we should move from talking heads, which are very restrictive, to more creative content. We can try to go towards body animation, to have full-fledged avatars, because usually when we are communicating, we are not just a disembodied head that talks, but we also have gestures, different movements, nodding and all these types of things. That would be, I think, the first extension of our technology. Then, we will see exactly how this could be extended. One idea is to also work into other modalities. One solution will be to have a sort of voice-to-voice translation. For example, I could attend an online meeting in which I talk in English, but the other participants could see and hear me talking in Spanish, Italian or any other kind of language in a seamless way. I think this is also something that we could do. We have the necessary technology to make it a reality.”