ll-Star NBA player Luka Dončič has officially handed his TikTok account over to a virtual human alter ego, named Luk.AI. Using artificial intelligence as a creative device, the digital double will develop its personality, skills, and hobbies over time through interactions with fans on TikTok.
The alter ego will help Luka connect with his global fanbase in a new, fun way while setting him up for expansive tech and metaverse opportunities, entering different virtual worlds as a character in his likeness.
“I thought it would be fun to turn myself into an AI and invite my fans to help me train him. He will explore many of my favorite interests outside of basketball, build new connections with fans and creators, and help me with my mission of bringing more play to the world,” Luka Dončič said in a statement.
However, as impressive as describing the digital double as an AI sounds, it is essential to note that Luk.AI is not entirely powered by artificial intelligence.
The digital double’s physical appearance was created using Unreal Engine’s MetaHuman Creator platform, owned by the renowned Epic Games. The company's free, web-based virtual human creation platform is not an AI tool, but rather a production software that uses Graphical User Interface (GUI) software to develop hyper-realistic characters. These characters can be exported for many use cases, such as becoming a TikTok personality informed by AI.
To expand Luka's commercial opportunities as a virtual human, the digital double was augmented with neutral network technologies trained with real-world facial animations from a performance capture of Luka. This process enables Luk.AI to appear across reality mediums, film, games, short-form video, and television.
The production process requires a human team to continuously control his character by, for example, using motion capture. Therefore, artificial intelligence is not part of the production of Luk.AI or the visuals of his future TikTok content.
So what parts make Luka's digital double an AI?
Firstly, Artificial intelligence (AI) is a computer system developed to carry out tasks that usually require human intelligence. For artificial intelligence to work, it is given (sometimes referred to as "fed") lots of data to learn and perform speech recognition, computer vision, pattern recognition, and object recognition. It means fans can influence the personal growth of an AI character like Luk.AI by interacting, playing, and conversing with it.
“Fans can get to know him and help to make him smarter by engaging with him. He’ll reply to their comments, listen to their ideas and create videos with them,” says Luka.
Knowing deeply how virtual human productions operate, there is a high likelihood a human being will select which comments to reply to, paste them into the AI engine, and choose whether or not to paste the AI's response to the selected comments. This ensures a level of quality, but also re-emphasizes the reality that fully AI-made and controlled virtual human experiences are a ways off. For now, the AI cocktail recipe works and persists.
Most programmed AI systems we interact with are rule-based, meaning they are composed and predetermined by humans. Rule-based AI is controllable as it can’t learn algorithms independently and will always rely on humans to code it.
It is safe to assume Luk.AI is rule-based and will be human-coded according to how fans interact with him on TikTok. It is a great strategy to connect with fans and make them feel influential when shaping the virtual influencer's persona and storyline because the character will directly reflect the fans' input.
Therefore, it is also important to distinguish between what makes a virtual influencer an AI and what doesn’t. Sometimes virtual influencers give the impression they are AI-based either through their name or storyline even when they aren’t. It creates a confusing experience for fans.
For instance, the famous virtual influencer Miquela drew a lot of attention and questions initially due to her storyline as a robot on Instagram. She is not powered by AI, but social media users still found it difficult to understand whether she was a real person or a robot interacting with fans on social media.
Then there’s Kuki AI, a virtual influencer on Instagram and an actual rule-based AI chatbot. Fans can sign up and start a chat by visiting her website, where she is solely powered by AI. However, the interaction with Kuki on social media is not through artificial intelligence but with her human team, which creates images, writes captions, and responds to fans. Therefore, It can be confusing for fans to figure out how much of the interaction is machine or human-based, both on and off social media.
While it's incredible to see AI playing a more significant role in the creative process for virtual influencers, it is crucial to recognize that many of these "AI" virtual experiences are not entirely conducted by AI. Instead, they are enhanced at key points of the traditional content production pipeline to make it easier to produce or perhaps more immersive for fans.
I am extremely excited about the launch of the Luk.AI alter ego and are eager to see how the experience unfolds with AI at the core of the fan experience. I would love to see AI play a bigger and bigger role in Luk.AI's production, hopefully to someday see the production become entirely AI-run with limited human touch.
To follow Luk.AI's journey for yourself, find him at @lukadoncic on TikTok.