Digital humans & metaverse will revolutionise consumers’ experiences: Andy Hood, WPP

Hood, VP - Emerging Technologies, WPP, delivered the keynote address on 'Our digital future,' at e4m Screenage 2021

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Updated: Oct 25, 2021 3:25 PM
Andy Hood

"Metaverse and digital humans are the two biggest emerging technologies that are in the nascent stages now but would play a major role in the future, taking consumers' experience to an entirely new level a lot more than what gaming does these days", says Andy Hood, Vice President, Technologies, WPP.

Hood said this while delivering the keynote address at e4m Screenage 2021 on October 22. 

“Digital humans understand the users, can speak any language, and establish emotional connect with the customers making interactions more empathetic and compassionate than real conversations. Digital humans don’t judge people and are available 24/7 to support the people,” he said. 

He explains further, “Digital humans are AI-powered customer care executives that recreate human interaction at an infinite scale. Digital humans can be designed, developed, and deployed as brand ambassadors, digital influencers, financial advisors and customer support representatives, etc. and these are device agnostic.”

These digital humans can see users through the camera and can hear through from their unique appearance to their personalities, everything is being co-designed to create the most positive, lasting impact on users, WPP official said. 

Citing a survey conducted by GroupM and e4m that revealed that 99% of people access their phones to connect to the internet, Andy said, “There results in an increase in voice search by 270% and Hindi voice search by 400%. That shows people’s interaction with their devices is growing bigger and bigger day by day.” 

Andy noted that people often think that interacting with digital humans would be strange and awful, it has been shown that people are far more honest and open while speaking to digital humans than the real ones especially in most sensitive subjects like finances. The awkwardness to talk to a device goes off very quickly. 

He told the audience that digital humans have already arrived in many spheres of life for instance “Ella”, the Artificial Intelligence-based police officer who has made her place in the New Zealand Police force. Ella is a virtual assistant with a face, something like Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa but with a human-like face.

“Ella is in charge of concierge station and deals with a lot of inquiries with stressed people in an empathetic way and responds to them in a way that calms them down. She can handle the huge volumes. Similarly, Emma and Maya deployed by Merigold University in Zurich handle a huge influx of new students guiding them about careers, finances, etc,” he shared.  

He also talked about “Mia”, another digital human deployed by a real estate firm in Texas- Madera Residentials- and “Florence” roped in by the WHO at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic as the world's first digital health worker to combat smoking and COVID-19 myths. 

Andy said, “Digital humans bring democratization of expert information. Conventional technology is rapidly increasing in sophistication. So, the digital humans, like chatbots, say the same thing to scores of people just like we do without changing the way.”

In his presentation, he displayed the videos where digital humans appear to be interacting with consumers in a way like humans. 

Explaining the phenomenon, he said, “The AI starts building the personality of the user based on facial expressions, voice and emotions and then responds accordingly.”

Andy explained how digital Vincent Lombardi, legendary coach of the National Football League walked, talked and delivered a passionate speech from a stadium’s screen last year telling people to remain united during the covid-19 pandemic.  In the wake of a tumultuous 2020, the NFL had decided to take a different approach to its pregame Super Bowl ad this year.

“While the real Lombardi died in 1970, his fans saw the coach walking through today’s America and speaking in his real voice cloned through technology and AI. The human voice is being synthesized in a way that it appears real. These technologies are helping us to personalize the conversation which appears to be one-on-one,” Andy noted. 

He also highlighted how Gucci’s virtual Dionysus Bag with Bee was sold for $4,000 during an online gaming event via virtual currency Roblox. This costed $800 more than the cost of Gucci’s real version. 

Explaining the most popular buzz word of today’s time that is “metaverse”, Andy said, “For most people metaverse is a virtual space where people play games, meet people, buy things and hang out and all that sounds like sci-fi and expensive but that is not. The metaverse is poised to change the way people interact in their day-to-day lives, including how we work, shop, and have social interactions. A survey by GroupM and Mega Mobile Assictaion said 84 percent people use mobile for entertainment purpose that shows the kind of future awaiting us.” 

Projects like The Sandbox, Decentraland and others are already using blockchain technology to create entire worlds that only exist online — but create value that translates in the real world, he noted. 

WPP VP - Emerging Technologies also explained about Non-Fungible Token (NFT) - the digital fine art collection and its application with blockchain technology. 

NFTs can be anything digital (such as drawings, music, your brain downloaded and turned into an AI) that gives ownership and identity to the artist. 

Andy cited the example of an auction of an NFT work of Mike Winkelmann— a digital artist known as Beepl at Christie’s which fetched  $69 million positioning him “among the top three most valuable living artists, and Indian blockchain firm Polygon that has created first NFT platform for cricket and has immortalised Dinesh Karthik’s winning moment of March 2018 (in a match against Bangladesh) into an NFT art. 

This NFT is an animated film of that fateful last ball in the match when India needed six runs to win, Karthik’s six, and the celebration in its aftermath. It features a voice-over by Karthik narrating his thoughts and emotions while facing up to the last ball and hitting the winning runs. This NFT is now being auctioned. 

Mentioning snapchat’s NFT that combines virtual reality with physical one, Andy said that these are just a few examples, and metaverse will open up enormous opportunities for consumers' experiences. 

He also urged people to get involved with the technologies of the future quickly with full passion and aspirations. 

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