The rapid rise of ‘virtual influencers’ that marketers need to know

Digital twins are opening up a new world of influencers against the In Real Life (IRL) social influencers.

There is one question that accompanies the social media influencer craze. The question is ‘Is this recommendation reliable?’ Wouldn’t it make sense to completely eliminate the pretending of reality itself?

The virtual human ‘ANA’ unveiled by Krafton ⓒKRAFTON, Inc.

From Lu do Magalou (about 6 million Instagram followers as of August 31, 2022), Lil Michela (about 3 million Instagram followers), and Nunuri (about 400,000 Instagram followers) Welcome to the world of ‘virtual influencers’. Gartner predicts that by 2025, 30% of influencer marketing budgets will be allocated to virtual influencers.

What’s interesting about this phenomenon isn’t that the virtual influencer isn’t a real person. In fact, brands have been creating fake personas for years of marketing. The real change here is the power of the software used to create it and the ability to create a ‘virtual man’ that can cross the so-called ‘uncanny valley’ that separates humans from artificial creatures. Of course, many virtual influencers are intentionally designed to be non-human, but some virtual influencers, like Lil Michela, are difficult to distinguish from real humans.

It is thanks to Epic Games that so many virtual humans exist online today. Epic Games developed the Unreal Engine, which has become the industry standard for high-resolution 3D animation for the gaming, television, and film industries, as well as the online gaming/virtual world of Fornite. Unreal Engine is also increasingly used in industrial design and manufacturing. The same goes for MetaHuman Creator, a tool for creating virtual humans.

Dean Reinhard, technical director of Epic Games Singapore, said that ‘Metahuman Creator’ is free to use for anyone who wants to create lifelike digital humans, and opens up a whole new world for marketers. Reinhard said, “Anyone can quickly and easily create a digital human as a metahuman creator.”

3D graphics technology redefines the concept of a ‘digital twin’, a term used to describe industrial systems (such as buildings or machines) that are replicated through software. Reinhard asked the question, “What if we could create a personal digital twin that could interact with the metaverse or use it in games?”

Reinhard said, “I don’t think there will be much change in people even if we use virtual humans that are identical to the real ones and are reliable. It just opens up different ways for people to interact. Real influencers don’t lose their jobs just because virtual influencers take the place of real influencers. It will open up new possibilities.”

For example, a real-world (IRL) influencer might create a digital twin and then augment the digital version of the influencer with AI translation technology to seamlessly communicate with fans in other languages. “With AI, we can deliver content that’s more relevant to a diverse audience that we couldn’t previously communicate with. It can democratize creativity and provide creators with the ability to work. It will also give you more ideas of what you can do in the future,” Reinhard added.

These possibilities sometimes involve the intersection between the physical world and the virtual world. Epic Games, for example, teamed up with Italian automaker Ferrari to bring a digital version of the sports car to Fortnite. Millions of game players are driving high-definition digital versions of cars they may never have been able to afford in real life.

Reinhard also said, “All brands want to be in this space, the metaverse. Of course, the brand still doesn’t know exactly what the metaverse is, but still wants to be there. Metaverse is a way of building an experience that people can enjoy, not just watching an advertisement, and it is an important change for marketers.”

Another new use case for Epic Games technology is virtual production. Shooting entirely within the game engine, or by projecting a virtual background onto a screen behind a real object. Reinhard noted that one advantage was being able to shoot without having to visit a specific location.

“Locations are expensive, they require planning, and if it rains, you waste both time and money,” he said. “If you put people in an LED stage, Fiji today, the top of the Egyptian pyramids in the afternoon, Iceland tomorrow. A lot of things will happen if I can go to the studio and shoot.”

“You can also create thousands of virtual humans, put them in the background of a video, and play them on the screen. It opens up various creative possibilities for filmmakers, directors, and creators. We don’t know the final destination, but it’s clear that it opens up a lot of possibilities,” Reinhard added.
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Source: ITWorld Korea by

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