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18 Feb 2021

Digital Humans – Technology with a Human Face

When we think about digital humans we imagine a being straight out of a futuristic sci-fi movie we have once seen. If we visualize ourselves in the universe of technological advancement we sometimes tend to distance from the thought of digital integration. We imagine it being something from a far-fetched future, without realizing that we might have already “run into” such beings on one or more occasions.

Digital human integration into a variety of enhanced experiences and content has been growing in popularity. Maybe you have seen the Samsung #TeamGalaxy commercial featuring Lil Miquela a digital influencer with over 3 million subscribers, or interacted with Lucy a digital being from the Emmy Award winning “Wolves in the Walls” VR experience. With countries like China and South Korea introducing their AI powered news anchors. Perhaps you have come across Reah Keem the LG AI powered digital influencer who appeared as a speaker at CES 2021.

Image Source: https://www.instagram.com/p/Bgu0V1GFu2P/?taken-by=lilmiquela

Digital beings now varying from entertainers to brand ambassadors and content creators, are developing further with technological advancement. We can imagine them representing us in the Metaverse as our hyper realistic doubles. They could take shape in digital human-like everyday assistants with whom we would have meaningful life-like interactions. Even be developed into artificial companions capable of building two-way emotional relationships.

To imagine how much further we can advance in attuning to this technology it is important to understand how a digital human is built.  

EUGENE OVCHARENKO, LUCID REALITY LABS CTO

“A digital human is a variation of an artificial human, a 3D model of a created or captured human shape, with capabilities to mimic, imitate or even learn behavior patterns, seeming as lifelike as possible.”

The technology behind digital human creation, both visual and character elements, is in constant development. Driven by the advancement of 3D scanning and visual capture tools, new highly realistic constructor platforms and motion creation software, frequently amplified by the advancement in Artificial Intelligence and much more. The challenge lies in the capability to duplicate or create facial features and expressions of the highest quality and utmost precision – ensuring accurate textures and light, both face geometry and motion deformation while expressing certain emotions.

Creation of a visually accurate being can take months, numerous resources and collaborative hours of a variety of specialists. With the launch of Epic Games Unreal Engine  MetaHuman Creator there is a big possibility that the struggle will become something from the long past. The new constructor promises to create high fidelity digital humans in minutes, allowing to manipulate and adjust facial features, complexion and textures, to achieve the highest visual standards and impeccable realism.

The creation process however does not stop at the visual, it has become essential to animate and fill-up the “shell” with a sense of presence, mind or even personality that can enable the two way interaction, allowing to build a stronger connection with the beholder. A complex combination of technology and algorithms is used to “breath life” into such creations using a mixture of Computer Vision (CV), BigData, artificial neural networks (ANNs), machine learning, affective computing. Using motion capture technologies, for instance full body motion capture solution from companies like Noitom, allows to animate the virtual human in real-time, giving their movements a natural flow for a more seamless human – intelligent machine interaction.

The deeper we dive into understanding how advanced this technology is becoming, the more we wonder how profoundly we should humanize digital beings. Would attributing them with characters, emotions and human qualities prove to be beneficial. 

Looking at it critically, it is important to keep the purpose in mind, making technology and its advancement an instrument, not a replacement of a real person. With the creation of more digital humans it is essential that their presence bring enhancement and opportunity. Expanding horizons to create, collaborate, entertain or even fulfill routine tasks becoming companions, facilitators, educators and much more. Digital humans are amongst the promising tools, requiring mindful integration. Such tools could potentially expand the technological progress, giving humans more possibilities to concentrate on personal development, advancing us as a species even further.