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07 Oct 2022

Digital Humans – Technology with a Human Face

When we think about digital humans, we imagine a being straight out of a futuristic science fiction movie we once saw. If we visualize ourselves in the universe of technological advancement, we sometimes tend to miss or distance ourselves 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 wide range of enhanced experiences and content has been growing in popularity for some years now. 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.

Digital beings, in the beginning, have been varying from entertainers to brand ambassadors and content creators. With technological advancement, they are now being developed further into consultants, assistants, virtual caregivers, and even companions. We can imagine running into them in the Metaverse, the word that some use to refer to Web 3.0, the next iteration of the internet. We would be able to interact with digital beings. They could represent us or even act as our hyper-realistic double or avatar. 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.

Image Source: Lil Miquela Instagram

To imagine how much further we can advance in attuning to this technology, it is essential to understand what exactly digital humans are. How are they created and brought to life, why are they important, and of course, look at some visual examples.  

What is a Digital Human?

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 life-like as possible. Enhanced by Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI), digital humans can exist in the digital environment as a part of the artificially created world and real-life environments as seamlessly integrated digital overlays of physical spaces.  

The Creation of Digital Humans, the New Era of Visual fidelity

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 Artificial Intelligence advancements 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. This requires the creation of high-quality digital forms with physical features that include face and body, skin, and hair that could visually match the ones of a real human being. 

Design and creation of a visually accurate being can take months, numerous resources, and collaborative hours of various specialists. With the launch of Epic Games Unreal EngineMetaHuman Creator, there is a big possibility that the struggle will become something from the long past. The new constructor, as a result, 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 effect of impeccable realism.

Bringing Digital Humans to Life

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 two-way interaction, allowing to build a stronger connection with the beholder and enable to create context-based responses. A complex combination of technology and algorithms is used to “breath life” into such creations utilizing a mixture of Computer Vision (CV), BigDataArtificial Neural Networks (ANNs), MachineLearning, and 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. This part also includes providing voice and speech capabilities as well as integrating a variety of language options. 

The Importance of Digital Humans

Digital humans open a vast scope of opportunities across numerous industries, including Healthcare, Manufacturing, Customer Care, and many more. Initially, they were pretty popularly created to be influencers and later as brand ambassadors. Today, digital humans can be created to cover many interactive functions, from customer service and advice to basic consultancy and bot-like interactions. They can be brought to various type of interactions, for example, as pre-programmed facilitators in team training and collaboration sessions or even as part of the creative process and story-telling activities.  

Digital Human Face Images

The deeper we understand 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 beneficial? While this is still a matter of debate, the level of realism can be brought exponentially close to the real-world counterparts.

Digital Human Render By Lucid Reality Labs

Technology already allows us to animate digital beings, to move, respond and express emotions similar to real-life people. Which enhanced by Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning could deliver and bring to life a new generation of digital entities, capable of developing and learning over time based on input and personal experience they gain while interacting with human users and other digital beings.

So what’s next with digital human technology? Looking at it critically, it is vital to keep the purpose in mind, making technology and its advancement an instrument, not a replacement for a real person. With the creation of more digital humans, their presence must 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 among the promising tools requiring mindful integration. Such tools could potentially expand technological progress, giving humans more possibilities to concentrate on personal development, advancing us as a species even further.

Authors: Alex Dzyuba, Lucid Reality Labs Founder & CEO | Anna Rohi, Lucid Reality Labs Senior Marketing & Communications Manager 

FAQ

Why use a digital human?

Digital humans are an excellent tool that can be used to create and give a company, brand, or entity an actual human face. Something that can be used to communicate and represent them in the digital arena and the next iteration of the internet, the Web 3.0 or the Metaverse. It can help build stronger connections with the users, recognition, and association awareness.

What are the technologies used in developing digital humans?

A broad spectrum of technologies is used in developing digital humans, from 3D modeling to animation tools. The technology to “give life to” digital humans include Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and Artificial Neural Networks.  

What’s on the horizon for digital humans?

While hyper-realistic features can still be visually differentiated from real human beings, technology will gradually advance in capabilities. This will allow creating of digital humans practically visually indistinctively from real human beings or their actual real-life counterparts.

Article Last Edited 7 October, 2022.