rtificial intelligence is increasingly becoming part of daily life and making headlines with tools such as ChatGPT, Midjourney, and DALL-E being used by everyday people looking for creative AI input or AI solutions to otherwise difficult problems. These new generative AI softwares allow people infinite creativity when producing images or text in a matter of minutes — sometimes with mind blowing results.
The term artificial intelligence — or AI — is also often used to describe certain virtual influencers on social media. However, as of today, none of these virtual influencers are not actually powered by AI. The virtual influencers of today still rely on a human team to engage with fans in some capacity because entirely AI virtual influencers do not exist … yet. Let’s discuss which virtual influencers currently use the term AI in their storylines, and where elements of AI have been used in virtual influencer’s content production pipelines.
Many virtual influencers, such as Miquela, VNCCII, Ai Angelica and Ai Ailynn, use the word AI as part of their narrative or directly in their name. For example, Miquela describes herself as an AI robot living in L.A. When really, she is a CGI image with a human team engaging with her fans.
VNCCII is an AI cyborg avatar also with a human production team working behind the scenes. The word AI emphasizes VNCCII’s unique existence and adds to the fictional storytelling of being an alien in a human world.
Artificial Intelligence Explained
So what is AI? Artificial intelligence is a computer system developed to carry out tasks that usually require human intelligence. For artificial intelligence to work, the program is fed massive amounts of data to learn. It is then asked to perform tasks like speech recognition, computer vision, pattern recognition, and object recognition with the goal of emulating human responses.
The software works by learning data patterns, which means sometimes AI can make classifications and predictions that humans, despite our powerful brains, can’t.
There are two types of programmed artificial intelligence — generative AI and rule-based. Generative AI is the less dependable of the two, as it can learn algorithms on its own to create new content.
Rule-based AI, on the other hand, is composed and predetermined by a human, meaning that the content produced by the AI already has been human-coded. This is, for example, why rule-based AI systems like Siri or Alexa say they don’t have the answer for certain topics and questions. Generative AI can quickly go off the rail, while rule-based AI is carefully controlled.
How Artificial Intelligence Is Used for Virtual Influencer, Kuki AI
While today’s virtual influencers are still dependent on humans for their social media profiles, they can be powered by artificial intelligence as a chatbot, such as Kuki AI, who is the closest thing we have to an AI influencer.
She has several social media profiles, where fans see her in different fashionable outfits and real-world surroundings. She can even be encountered on Roblox. By visiting her website, fans can sign up and start a chat directly with Kuki, and so far, 25 million people have interacted with her.
Kuki describes herself as “a female chat robot who likes kebabs and football.” She answers and asks questions, shares her opinion and can even get a little snappy if she’s bored by the conversation. Kuki can also send gifs that express her mood or encapsulate the situation.
“Kuki is programmed to have an answer for everything. To understand the conversation, she uses natural language processing to analyze the information given to her by the user. If you ask her any random question, she will have an answer for you and chances are it’s going to be impressive,” says Liz Snower, Co-Founder and COO of ICONIQ AI.
Kuki AI operates based on a rule-based chatbot programmed on a language called AI Mark-Up Language, which means everything she says on the chat has been written and approved by a human. It is also important to note, her social media channels also require a human team to create the content.
“I think we are still a pretty long way from having an AI that manages its own social media. We’re always gonna need humans in the loop for this. Our big vision for Kuki is to have her evolve into the AI of the people. Kuki’s brain can be decentralized, so eventually anyone will be able to contribute to her brain, like people contribute to Wikipedia,” Snower says.
The strategy employed by Kuki AI’s team to set her up as a virtual influencer and a chatbot enhances fans’ ability to build a personal and authentic relationships with Kuki. Encounters with her are entertaining because they seem so real.
“When the Metaverse actually materializes, we will find ourselves in daily situations interacting with an AI that is so believable we aren’t sure if it’s human or not. At that point, it is really important that people who build AI are honest with the public. AI should never be trying to trick humans into believing it is alive or has feelings,” says Liz Snower.
How Artificial Intelligence Can Upgrade Virtual Influencer Content Production
The Swedish virtual influencer, Esther Olofsson is another example of how AI can “power” a virtual influencer. Esther’s storyline unfolds on Instagram as she travels the world, enjoys native cuisines, and spends time with friends. In December 2022, her team at RAUWcc announced her “upgrade” by letting fans know each of Esther's Instagram images from now on would be generated by artificial intelligence.
Four AI tools are used in Esther’s visual production. Stable Diffusion generates the images with a full 3D model of Esther. The team uses ChatGPT for her captions, while Movio animates and lip syncs the still images. Then Replica Studio is used for generating Esther’s voice to make her appear interactive and life-like for fans.
The production is still not fully AI-generated as it requires a human team for directing the storyline, inserting the prompts for the AI tools, choosing the final images and audio, and posting the content on social media.
However, by turning Esther into an AI-generated virtual influencer, she becomes more community-based. Fans can influence her content creation by coming with suggestions for her team to type directly into the AI image tools.
“What will AI do to Esther? No idea. Of course, we’ll steer her exploration at first. She will go to Scandinavia for a trip down memory lane and she’ll go all over the world. But we also want to ask her followers to provide suggestions and tips on where to go. The great thing with AI is that anything is possible” says Maarten Reijgersberg, CEO at RAUWcc, creators of Esther.
The Future of AI-Powered Virtual Influencers
In 2021, Huawei showed how artificial intelligence could impact virtual humans and influencers in the future when they introduced their first virtual employee, YunSheng. YunSheng can think, move, speak and respond to humans in real-time thanks to Huawei's proprietary technology that includes AI automatic modeling, AI voice drive and AI rendering acceleration.
YunSheng's performance on stage at Huawei’s annual Connect Conference demonstrated how AI-powered virtual humans have limitless potential and can be as independent as humans.
Artificial intelligence is the next level for virtual influencers. Through AI, virtual influencers will become more community-based in their interactions. In the metaverse, they will become indispensable companions with whom fans interact and explore.
Should the capabilities of AI someday take over their own social media channels and create content without human input, there will need to be proper guardrails in place to ensure the AI is creating a deeper connection with fans and a more immersive experience, rather than adverse possibilities.
The software available to virtual influencer creators today does not enable them to create AI-generated content at the click of a button. But, one day soon, many virtuals will likely be powered by this kind of technology. In the end, this will likely allow virtuals to engage in real-time and more authentic experiences with their fans and community, all without a human-powered team.