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  • Kim Yun-a

[Feature] The Age of Virtual Humans, Who’s Next?

No.163 / Apr 17, 2023


The era of virtual beings that are more human-like than humans is approaching. As Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology develops, content using virtual humans continues to evolve. Humans made with software, such as digital humans, meta-humans, and cyber humans, are called virtual humans. In 1998, Adam, a cyber singer modeled on “Won-bin” through Computer Graphics (CG), became a sensation after his debut and opened the first cyber boom in the music industry. However, due to the limitations of technology and capital, they ceased to perform. As a result, people wondered if the “history” of cyber humans would end. Nevertheless, cyber humans have undergone a “second period of activity”. Currently, popular virtual humans include ae-aespa, a girl group of SM Entertainment, and ROZY, a television advertisement model of Shinhan Group. Remarkably, the girl group “MAVE,” which is on the rise with the most views among the January stages of the MBC’s “Show! Music Core” program, is also a “virtual human”.

What type of technology creates virtual humans that are becoming increasingly common place? Three types of methodologies for digital human creation have been representatively established in the industry. The first is a form in which everything is drawn through CG. It is a traditional method used in media such as movies. The second is a combination of technology using AI. It is a so-called deepfake method that combines the face or body parts of a specific person. The third is 3D modeling. This method has developed into a form that implements avatar-type digital humans more closely to reality. Owing to advances in technology, it is possible to maintain the real-time avatars produced by 3D modeling, and it is widely used in virtual human production.

Currently, virtual humans are active as models, show hosts, and influencers, in addition to being idols. Why is the use of virtual humans, not real humans, increasing? The strength of virtual humans is that they can produce all the scenes with computer graphics; thus, they can operate freely without time and space constraints. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual humans can be focused on the metaverse, which is growing rapidly in line with the non-face-to-face era, and accordingly, scalability is wide. Companies that select virtual people as models can easily build branding by controlling virtual people from beginning to end. Moreover, above all, there is no risk of privacy problems, which is an important advantage. It is expected that the potential of virtual humans and technological advances will be combined to expand further.

However, there are legal risks and limitations in the process of creating and using virtual humans. Since virtual humans are created using AI, copyright problems with the materials they learn can occur in this process. In addition, if the real person is implemented in virtual reality as it is, personal rights such as portrait and voice rights of the real person can fundamentally be a problem. As it is a technology that is still actively developing, further discussions on the use of virtual humans are likely to take place.



 

By Kim Yun-a, AG Cub Reporter

rladbsdk0306@ajou.ac.kr


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