Like many students, Liri has had several part-time jobs. She is 23, has a nice face and works as a waitress and bartender in Tel Aviv, Israel, where she attends the University. But he also sells cars, works in retail and conducts job interviews and onboarding sessions for new employees as HR manager. In Germany.
How does it do it all?
Liri can juggle so many jobs, in multiple countries, because she has lent her face to Hour One, an AI startup that uses real people as a basis to create deepfake characters who then appear in marketing and educational videos for companies. organizations around the world. Do you remember her? I have spoken here of his first steps, and now he's stronger than ever.
Hour One is part of a wave of companies that are overhauling the way digital content is produced. Their advance could have major implications for the "flesh and blood" workforce.
Liri does her job as a waitress and bar herself, but she has no idea what her digital clones are up to. “It's definitely a little weird to think that my face might appear in videos or advertisements for different companies,” he says.
Hour One is not the only one
Hour One isn't the only company leveraging deepfake technology to produce mash-ups of real-world footage and AI-generated video. Some have used professional actors to give life to characters like Salvador Dalì, eg.
Hour One, however, does not require special skills. You just have to be willing to hand over the image rights to your face.
A future of characters
Hour One is building a pool of what it calls "characters". He says he has about 100 "characters" in his portfolio so far, and more are added every week. “We have a line of people who are dying to give us their faces to become characters,” he says Natalie Monbiot, Chief Strategist of the company.
Anyone can apply to become a character. Like a modeling agency, Hour One filters out candidates, selecting the ones she finds most agreeable. The company aims for a large sample of characters that reflect the ages, genders, and racial origins of people in the real world, says Monbiot. In short, a face for each category.
Currently, around 80% of its characters are under the age of 50, 70% are female and 25% are white.
How to go from a face to a virtual testimonial
To create a character, Hour One uses a high resolution 4K camera to film the face of a person talking and making different facial expressions in front of a green screen. Enough. End. that's it for the human part of the performance. By inserting the resulting data into artificial intelligence software, the system can generate an infinite amount of footage of that person saying what they want, in any language.
Hour One customers pay the company to use its characters in promotional or commercial videos. They select a face, upload the text they want it to say, and get a video of what looks like a real person reciting that script to a camera.
What kind of services does Hour One offer?
The fastest service uses text-to-speech software to generate synthetic voices, synchronized with the movements of the characters' face, mouth and facial expressions. Then there is a premium service where audio is recorded by professional voice actors. These voices are again adapted to the movements of the character in the video.
Hour One claims to have more than 40 clients, including real estate, e-commerce, digital health and entertainment companies. One major client is Berlitz, an international language school offering teacher-led video courses for dozens of languages. According to Monbiot, Berlitz wanted to increase the number of videos on offer, but struggled to do so using real human actors. They had to have production crews creating the same setup with the same actor over and over, he says, “They found it really unsustainable. We are talking about thousands of videos ”. Berlitz now works with Hour One to generate hundreds of videos in minutes. “We are replacing the studio,” says Monbiot. "A human being doesn't need to waste time filming."
The Alice Receptionist case
Another example of the technology in action is Alice Receptionist, a company that provides businesses with an avatar on a screen to handle visitor queries, replacing the role of a human receptionist at a number of physical locations across the United States. Hour One is working with Alice Receptionist to update her video footage of human actors so that digital receptionists can say different things in different languages without having to shoot hours of video.
And Liri? What happens once a face is "sold"?
Like all the "characters" of hour one, Liri also receives a micropayment every time a customer licenses a video that uses her face. Monbiot doesn't say exactly how big these payments are, except that it's dollars, not cents. “I can't say that anyone makes a living doing this today,” he says. "But we think that if all goes well it will be a viable way to have an income."
By eliminating the need for film crews, studio technicians, and actors, Hour One's technology is a boon to companies looking to scale up video production, while offering some easy money to a handful of people like Liri. Some are troubled by the implications for the future of work.
Change the face, change the roles
“It seems like a pretty extreme case of technology downsizing the role of the human being in a particular work process,” he says Jessie Hammerling of the Center for Labor Research and Education at the University of California, Berkeley, which studies the impact of new technologies on work. Automation doesn't always do away with human roles entirely, but it changes them in ways that impact people's ability to earn a fair wage or turn a job into a long-term career, he says. Can we blame him?
Hammerling notes that allowing companies to reuse one-time actor footage for multiple video projects will reduce the availability of this type of acting work. The "trade union" battle will move to the management of image rights ... on one's face!
There is a risk of being included in unsuitable content, or that could conflict with other worksJessie Hammerling
Hour One knows his stuff
The company doesn't let people have a say in how their face will be used, or what words will be put in their mouth, but its policy specifies that it won't work with certain industries. “We are quite conservative about the types of companies we work with,” says Monbiot. This means no gambling, no sex and no politics. It will always be like this?
Liri doesn't worry too much for now. Trust that Hour One doesn't use her face for something that might make her uncomfortable. “I've had friends send me videos where they saw my face, which seemed very strange to me,” he says. "Suddenly, I realized this thing is real."