What is a Digital Human?

Gartner has identified digital humans as one of five technologies that will transform organisations’ digital futures.

You’ve probably already experienced them in some form, such as a motion-capture video game performance, an influencer’s digital avatar or a virtual customer service representative on a brand’s website. The potential applications range far beyond business, with events, branded experiences, healthcare and more all benefitting.

While we’re some way off digital humans offering something as complicated as medical advice, today’s versions are remarkably advanced. It looks increasingly likely that they’ll redefine many aspects of our lives.

What is a Digital Human?

Digital humans are computer-generated avatars that move and behave like humans in virtual spaces. They can be animated in real-time through motion capture apps and controlled by humans to deliver truly unique, personalised performances or support. Facial capture and 3D sculpting tools means advanced models look nearly indistinguishable from real humans.

They can also be powered by AI to provide more human interactions with technologies like chatbots or digital assistants, as speaking with a digital avatar is more engaging than a chat interface. 

Consider Siri; how much more immersive would interactions with Apple’s digital assistant be if you were talking to a (digital) human rather than your phone?

It’s this level of connection that digital humans offer that make them such a compelling innovation, and one with far-reaching applications.

What Can Digital Humans Do?

One area that digital humans offer near-limitless opportunities is in entertainment. Events, content creation, gaming, branded experiences and more could all become dominated by digital humans in the next few years.

By creating digital versions of themselves, celebrities, influencers and brand ambassadors can host unique, memorable experiences in virtual worlds (like the metaverse) that reach larger audiences than in-person events and drive greater engagement.

When combined with AI, digital humans offer consistent service and constant availability that benefits any customer-facing role. UneeQ showcases Stella, a virtual store assistant for Singapore’s leading telecommunications brand Singtel and its Unboxed retail experiences. These pop-up stores are unmanned (by regular humans) – that’s handled by Stella’s 24/7 contactless, conversational experience. 

Customers can sign up for mobile phone, fibre and TV services, order SIM cards and top up their phones, all through Stella. Her friendly personality gives her a personal touch when communicating, helping Stingel provide a great shopping experience for customers without needing physical staff.

A company or influencer looking to increase engagement on social media could create a digital human that expresses that brand’s values. These digital personas can lead interactive sessions, provide exclusive content, and create a sense of connection that enhances brand loyalty.

From marketing to healthcare, every industry has use cases for digital humans. Their ability to provide realistic, empathetic interactions through either human or AI control, makes them a valuable asset in the modern digital landscape. However, as with any new technology, there are potential issues to overcome.

The Ethics

Who owns the likeness and behaviours of digital humans? If the avatar is modelled after a real person, questions regarding content ownership and rights will arise. 

OpenAI recently removed its voice option from ChatGPT 4o after comparisons were made to actress Scarlett Johansson’s AI companion character in the 2013 film Her. Johansson released a statement outlining how she had been approached by OpenAI to voice the system, but had declined. Despite this, the ‘Sky’ system sounded very similar to her. The AI company has since taken down Sky, but clarified that the voice was another voice actor that happened to sound like Johansson.

The dispute highlights the enduring argument over ownership rights for likenesses, particularly for public figures. There’s also the issue of deepfakes, which are becoming increasingly pervasive as technology becomes better at recreating people digitally. 

By impersonating celebrities or politicians, these digital manipulations can spread misinformation or be used to commit fraud or in blackmail.

There are also questions about the psychological impact of interacting with digital recreations of real people. So much of our lives are already online, and digital humans could further blur the line between virtual and real experiences. 

At a time where online security, privacy and the general impact of technology on our lives are huge concerns, the potential for abuse may prove a stumbling block for digital humans.

Digital Humans – Are They the Future?

More realistic, responsive, and empathetic virtual avatars mean digital humans could revolutionise how we interact with machines in ways previously imagined only in science fiction.

They’re already appearing in our lives, and the benefits are already being felt, such as seamless shopping experiences even with no physical staff in the store.

But the technology is still in its infancy – questions remain over the ethics of creating digital humans using real people, and we don’t yet know the impact of interacting so intimately digitally. 

Whatever the answers are, there’s no doubt digital humans are going to transform how we interact with the online world.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *