In South Korea, the era of AI humans is rapidly becoming mainstream, with companies like Pulse9 leading the charge. These AI creations are designed to sing, read the news, and even sell luxury products on television, blurring the line between virtual and reality.
Zaein, one of South Korea’s most prominent virtual humans, is a creation of Pulse9, an artificial intelligence company that is fulfilling corporate visions of the perfect employee. Pulse9 has developed digital humans for major South Korean conglomerates, including Shinsegae. Market research suggests that the global market for such lifelike AI creations could reach $527 billion by 2030.
South Korea has seen AI humans enroll as university students, intern at major companies, and appear on live TV shows, driving product sellouts from food items to luxury handbags.
Pulse9, however, sees this as just the beginning. According to Park Ji-eun, the CEO of the company, they are “working on developing the technology to broaden AI human use.” She notes that virtual humans are already capable of performing many tasks that real people do, but humans are still required for some aspects.
Initially, the demand for AI humans in South Korea was driven by the K-pop industry, where virtual idols offered a scandal-free, 24/7 working alternative. Now, Pulse9 aims to show that these virtual beings can coexist with humans as colleagues and friends in various societal roles.
Zaein’s face was created using deep learning analysis, a method that involves teaching computers to process complex data. It involved analyzing the faces of K-pop stars from the past two decades. Zaein’s lifelike appearance is achieved by overlaying the deepfake on a human actor. Over 10 human actors, each with unique talents like singing, dancing, acting, and reporting, contribute to bringing Zaein to life.
These AI humans are a fascinating development in South Korea, challenging traditional notions of celebrity and human interaction.