Li Ka- shing has invested in 3 rounds in a row, and SoftBank hastily entered the most successful digital human startup?

 Digital man, Homo sapiens 

Almost everyone has a voice AI assistant on their smartphone.

You may have set an alarm, checked information, or even played idiom Solitaire or bickered with him. Now, imagine what it would look like if your Siri had a human figure at the moment? Will you get closer to him?

This is exactly what a bunch of digital startups are trying to do. Recently, SoftBank, which has always had a preference for robotic hardware, has picked up a special digital human startup and led a $70 million financing in the company. With this capital, the company’s total investment has reached 135 million US dollars, of which Li Ka-shing ‘s Victoria Harbour Investment has appeared in 3 investments.

The name of the company is very ambitious – Soul Machines , with a hint of re-engraving the human soul on the machine. Earlier in the A round of financing, the company received a total of $7.5 million from Li Ka-shing’s Horizons Ventures and Iconiq Capital.

Li Ka- shing has invested in 3 rounds in a row, and SoftBank hastily entered the most successful digital human startup?

Soul Machines is exporting a batch of digital people to the world, and hopes that these emotional virtual AIs can be further integrated into the real world of human beings.

In the next few years, this new group of species is likely to become ubiquitous, from banks to store customer service, from mobile phones to cars, from video sites to social platforms.

So, next, will Soul Machines be the most successful provider of digital humans in the world?

Li Ka- shing has invested in 3 rounds in a row, and SoftBank hastily entered the most successful digital human startup?

Figure 丨 The digital human displayed on the official website of Soul Machines

The founder who won the Oscar

First of all, the difficulty of creating a digital person and cultivating a human is naturally different, but don’t underestimate the birth of a digital person.

If disassembled according to the general technical direction, a basic digital human will include cutting-edge technologies such as motion capture, rendering modeling, and AI capability injection. The current digital human suppliers in the world can also be simply classified according to the above three different focus directions.

Among them, motion capture and rendering modeling mainly determine the image of a digital human, while AI capabilities are responsible for shaping the response of digital human interaction with humans.

The founder of Soul Machines – Mark Sagar – is one of the rare people with a background in these fields.

Li Ka- shing has invested in 3 rounds in a row, and SoftBank hastily entered the most successful digital human startup?

Mark Sagar is the soul behind the movies ” Avatar “, “King Kong” and ” Spider-Man 2 “. For his and his team’s avatar technology in these films, he was awarded the Academy Award for Technology in 2010 and 2011.

Earlier, as director of the Animation Technology Laboratory at the University of Auckland’s School of Bioengineering, he began developing an animation system capable of autonomous interaction to facilitate the development of next-generation human-computer interaction and facial motion technology.

Taking his own daughter as the prototype, Mark Sagar led the animation technology laboratory to develop a digital baby “immortal” on the screen – Baby X , this baby has a digital brain, which can perceive, learn, progress and communicate, based on the principle of biological simulation , its image is the appearance of a baby around 18 months, its facial expressions will change with the changes of thoughts, cognition, and emotions, and it can listen and give feedback on expressions and movements. Although we are no strangers to such avatars now, in 2016, the development of such a virtual human with emotional response functions, personality and characteristics is really new.

Li Ka- shing has invested in 3 rounds in a row, and SoftBank hastily entered the most successful digital human startup?

Figure | Baby X (Source: Fanatical Futurist YouTube)

In 2016, a special opportunity came to Mark Sagar. When Li Ka Shing Foundation members visited the University of Auckland, Mark Sagar and his Baby X project were included in the itinerary. That presentation was quite successful, and it later brought Horizon Ventures funding to Mark Sagar’s company Soul Machine: In December of the same year, Horizon Ventures announced that it had led Soul Machines’ $7.5 million Series A funding round with Iconiq Capital.

However, what Soul Machines offers to their customers is no longer this “digital baby”, but a more mature digital human.

Mark Sagar and his team saw the potential of a digital human to enhance a company’s brand experience. Providing customized digital humans for enterprises is the focus of Soul Machines after its establishment.

They wanted to address a fundamental question: Most companies rely on apps and websites for their primary interactions with consumers, so how can companies shape their personal branding experience in an increasingly digital world?

For this question, Soul Machines believes that the answer is the digital workforce – the digital human .

Li Ka- shing has invested in 3 rounds in a row, and SoftBank hastily entered the most successful digital human startup?

Ideally, a digital human would provide services in any language at any time of the day, and would mimic the human experience so well that it would generate emotional responses from humans, ultimately increasing brand loyalty. When a C-end user interacts with the digital human provided by Soul Machines, the information on the facial expression and emotional response of the C-end user can also be collected, anonymized and used to train the digital brain behind the digital human, so that it can continuously interpret and improve the response.

It’s like talking to a virtual salesperson.

For example, as part of the experience, you can buy skincare products on an e-commerce platform and have the opportunity to speak with a smart skincare advisor. Especially during the pandemic, we have found that a key issue is that more and more shopping behaviors and ways of experiencing brands are being done in the digital world.

“Traditionally, the digital world has some kind of business dominance, and even chatbots are highly targeted, you type a question and you get a corresponding response. What made us think about how we should imagine humans and all digital in the future The interaction of the world?” said Greg Cross , the company’s co-founder and chief commercial officer .

Soul Machines’ Digital Human Methodology

At present, many international brands that attach importance to the online shopping experience have begun to try this with Soul Machines.

Like Nestle . Soul Machines built “Ruth” for it , an AI-powered baking teacher that can answer basic questions about baking and help customers find recipes based on ingredients in their kitchens. In addition to Nestlé, Mercedes-Benz, SKI-II and Sony have all customized their digital humans with Soul Machines.

Li Ka- shing has invested in 3 rounds in a row, and SoftBank hastily entered the most successful digital human startup?

Figure 丨 Enterprise user distribution industry of Soul Machines

Notably, Soul Machines has also partnered with the World Health Organization to create Florence, a virtual health worker that can provide 24/7 counseling to those trying to quit smoking or learn about the COVID-19 pandemic. The existence of Florence also heralds the potential application capabilities of digital humans in the field of telemedicine. For example, for patients who prefer a live video experience, digital humans can help provide a degree of privacy and comfort, allowing patients to be in a comfortable way. Ask sensitive questions, allowing doctors to address more medical situations.

Li Ka- shing has invested in 3 rounds in a row, and SoftBank hastily entered the most successful digital human startup?

Source: Twitter

Anna Lo , investment director at SoftBank Investment Advisors, said Soul Machines’ digital human solution is particularly popular in the service industry. Businesses in these industries want to enhance the online customer service experience beyond just text-based chat or audio-only phone calls, “With autonomous animation, Soul Machines’ custom digital human is a useful customer acquisition tool.”

The data shows that after using Soul Machines’ digital people, the conversion rate of C-end users with customers has increased by an average of 4.6 times, and user satisfaction has increased by 2.3%. In Soul Machines’ partnership with SK-II, customers were twice as likely to make a purchase after interacting with the digital human “Yumi.”

In addition to this direct benefit, Greg Cross points out that another benefit of digital humans for businesses is that to consumers, many digital assistants may feel more like a gimmick than a useful tool, but these assistants allow companies to collect Customer first-party data. This data can be used to acquire and retain customers and add more value than spending huge sums of money buying it from social media platforms or Google Ads.

At present, the team members of this company are composed of AI researchers, neuroscientists, psychologists, and artists. They not only provide the customized digital human services for enterprises mentioned above, but also provide standardized digital services. Digital DNA Studio chooses standardized digital people (appearance, voice, 12+ languages, personality, conversation ability, etc.) to apply to the website, and monitor the traffic of digital people.

Of course, Soul Machines envisions using digital people to improve the brand’s online experience. A major premise of these things is that digital people themselves can provide a good user experience.

In fact, just as the voice assistant market often left people laughing at “artificial mental retardation” in the early days, there is actually a lot of room for improvement in the fledgling digital human industry. The core is to continuously improve the human-computer interaction experience faster.

In order to be able to measure the progress of digital human products, Soul Machines has written a white paper proposing a digital human evolution framework consisting of five levels:

Level 0 , or “no autonomy”, is just a recorded animation, like a cartoon.

Levels 1 and 2 involve more understanding of human responses and more realistic animations. Here you can imagine how animated characters imitate the movements of real actors in movies like Avatar or The Lord of the Rings. (For example, in the real-time image generation, the mouth shape or expression of the digital human is slightly stiff, etc. is still a big problem that has not yet been solved in the industry)

Levels 3 to 5 belong to real-time, dynamically generated, content-aware digital humans.

Soul Machines considers itself currently at level 3 , a “cognitively trained animation (CTA) system that uses algorithms to generate a set of animations without the need for an explicit author. The author is focused on the AI ​​that defines the content and the scope of the character. Trainer. The system informs the trainer of areas for improvement.

According to Cross, Soul Machines is working towards Level 4 autonomy, or “goal-based imagery.” The system tries new interactions under the guidance of a trainer and learns from each interaction. An approximate application example of this is virtual AI assistants, but virtual AI assistants with real-time imagery are closer to the setting of Soul Machines.

Recently, Soul Machines announced an even bolder plan to create a directory of celebrity virtual twins.

Beginning last year, the company partnered with Los Angeles Lakers basketball player Carmelo Anthony to create his digital image. Earlier, rapper had a similar collaboration with Soul Machines.

Li Ka- shing has invested in 3 rounds in a row, and SoftBank hastily entered the most successful digital human startup?

Source: RNZ

Yes, Soul Machines also envisions a world where humans are free to create their own digital humans. “It is very likely that we will create our own digital twins sometime in the future and be able to train those twins by interacting with them online,” Cross said.

I don’t know if you, as a reader, are interested, and want to try to create another “you” in the virtual world right away. At least, the author himself has begun to fantasize that my digital avatar can replace my work code.

Posted by:CoinYuppie,Reprinted with attribution to:
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