If Generated Photos keeps making millions of fake people, they might be hearing from the models’ union. But the AI company might also be inventing the future of how we engage with each other online in the metaverse.
And the company’s virtual avatars might actually be real live human models’ best friends.
“We use machine learning to actually, basically train what’s called a GAN — or generative adversarial network — on a huge training data set, and it’s human faces right now,” Tyler Lastovich, who leads strategy at Generated Photos, told me recently on the TechFirst podcast. “We can go through and create millions and millions of people, essentially, that have never existed, that are unreal.”
Currently the company has made 2,686,238 freely available AI-generated photos, plus many more for clients. But there’s an entire industry of synthetic humans.
Synthetic influencers like Lil Miquela have millions of followers and have made millions of dollars for the companies that create them: studios who don’t just sign stars, but invent them and, essentially own them. Chinese government media outlet Xinhua has a virtual news reader who doesn’t have a mind of its own, and Fable Studio or Virtual Humans will create and operate a synthetic character or influencer for any brand that wants one.
That’s not exactly Generated Photos business: the company counts as customers game developers who populate their universes with characters, software companies that need avatars, designers, and anyone else who need “people” but can’t use real photos.
One unsavory but necessary use: law enforcement officials working to catch child-abusing sexual predators. No parent, obviously, wants their child’s likeness used as a model or profile picture for something like this.
Interestingly, models themselves make up a chunk of the synthetic likeness industry, Lastovich says.
“I think that most models today kind of have some synthetic component, whether they’re photoshopped or edited or something like that,” he told me. “I think that what we’ll see in the next five or ten years is really kind of a cross between the real world and the virtual world. So, models probably won’t exist as singularly just real or digital. I think these will kind of meld together.”
Other models might be looking for a near-replica under their own control, or virtual versions that can multiply their earning potential.
That’s something that Reface.ai is working on as well, building a platform where Michael Jordan could sell you the latest Nikes personally in live interactive video. Or Morgan Freeman could be your new Siri, Google Assistant, Alexa, or Cortana. Not just in voice, but with a face and a body.
But it’s not just models.
You and I could be owners of our own generated avatars in just a few years.
Telepresentation is going to be increasingly important in the next few years as we connect and meet and learn in virtual spaces.
“Everyone’s going to want to have very deep customization of their likeness and how they’re represented in their kind of second world, second life,” Lastovich says. “We’re seeing really great advances in natural language processing and text … there’s all sorts of rigging models and stuff that can project our images, say, on top of a 3D face, and that face can then talk or things like that. And so, kind of marrying all these technologies together will give you really, really deep interactions that have photorealism.”
Ultimately, that means that our digital assistants will have faces and bodies as well. What does Siri look like? Alexa? The Google Assistant? Probably, whatever we want to them look like.
And it means that we’ll haver personalized entertainment as well.
“You’ll be able to have Netflix videos that are procedurally generated to match your demographic or ads that are very targeted,” Lastovich says. “All of that type of stuff is definitely coming down the pipeline faster than I think people realize.”
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