MY OWN PRIVATE AVATAR

Hyper-realistic representations of humans bring unprecedented and unexplored ways to communicate within the context of virtual channels and the Metaverse

Technology never looked more human. Generative AI, body sensors, scanners to name a few, bring entirely new ways of anthropomorphic communication. We are provided with a means to create hyper-realistic, “real fake” representations of ourselves, and use them for a variety of personal and business purposes within the virtual realm. So advanced are these avatars, that many technology providers can now claim to have successfully passed the doom of the “uncanny valley,” where synthetic representations of humans were just not convincing enough and as such, triggered discomfort. Now, the road is open for VTubers, virtual humans, holograms, virtual social media influencers, and many, many more connotations of anthropomorphism. They will fool around with our perceptions of reality, and trigger a crucial debate about ethics, authenticity and what defines us as humans.

Menno Van Doorn Expert in Residence

WHAT

  • Generative AI (see our Thriving on Data trend, Creative Machine), combined with body scanners and sensors that track face and body movements, enables realistic synthetic representations of humans for digital purposes.
  • These avatars can be represented in different ways, for example through audio, video, or holograms, and can be used across various (social) media channels, also notably within the evolving context of the Metaverse (see our trend Me, Myself and my Metaverse).
  • Originally mainly applied within the gaming and entertainment context, virtual avatars are now increasingly being used within marketing, customer service, and remote work environments, escaping the limitations of two-dimensional visualization.
  • Virtual avatars are engineered to achieve an instant connection with customers, forming a brand-customer bond. They convert ads to brand stories and enable people to resonate with the brand, establishing a more personalized connection.
  • As with many breakthroughs in technology, misuse is a threat: “deepfake” tools that generate doctored audio and videos are becoming far more affordable and accessible, triggering ethical discussions and potentially legal measures.
  • Technology such as AI and anthropomorphic communication should always be assessed and applied from a human-centered perspective. It does make us rethink our unique position as human beings, and the various ways “reality” is perceived.

USE

  • Snapchat and Adidas partnered to enable Snapchatters to dress their “bitmojis” in various Adidas designs to express themselves with a brand that resonates with them, offering a personal, creative, and fun way to interact digitally with friends.
  • Verizon and Dreamscape created avatar-driven synthetic training and simulation experiences for students, government, and professional learning – by using 5G and immersive technology – aiming to make VR training more accessible for students.
  • Warner Bros used personalized deepfakes to promote its new movie “Reminiscence” by working with synthetic media startup D-ID, allowing consumers to insert their face in a Warner Bros trailer.
  • The Agricultural Bank of China deployed an AI-based digital human receptionist, designed to mimic its human counterpart for personalized services, lifting its overall service quality and operational efficiency.
  • As part of its Metaverse strategy, Meta’s Facebook launched VR-based Horizon Workrooms; a collaboration experience that lets people work together in virtual work spaces, represented by their own virtual avatar.

IMPACT

  • Virtual avatars decrease the need to travel to and from any physical location, helping with the scarcity of specialized resource, decreasing travel requirements, saving energy and the environment.
  • Avatars form part of an inclusive technology platform, allowing more people to express themselves in creative and productive ways – even if they did not previously have the capability to do so before.
  • Companies are increasingly employing avatars for personalized customer service and marketing. When configured and trained properly, avatars can be highly productive, eradicating the round-the-clock need for available, scarce human resources.
  • Avatars provide entirely new, unique ways for organizations to profile themselves in the virtual world, serving the brand’s purpose objectives and the evolving expectations of its customers and employees.

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