Virtual Human Video Startup Synthesia Raises $12.5M

AI video creation startup Synthesia has raised $12.5 million in a Series A funding round led by FirstMark Capital. Synthesia offers a platform that combines synthetic audio and visuals to produce custom videos without any actual actors or film crew.

Synthesia Reality

Synthesia videos are built from AI analysis of actors in the company’s catalog or video uploaded by the user. Machine learning breaks down the sound and appearance of the person so that the AI can generate a simulacrum or avatar capable of imitating that actor but doing and saying things that were not in the videos uploaded to the platform. Once that’s set up, the user can type up a script for the virtual version of the person to speak, and adjust any images or other sights and sounds they want the video to have. The components are pulled together by the AI to create a video, which can then be adjusted and finetuned without the standard video editing tools.

The company is aiming largely at the marketing and educational markets for its videos. In the four years since the company was founded, Synthesia has run campaigns generating personalized video messages from celebrities like David Beckham, Lionel Messi, Snoop Dogg, and Santa Claus. The enterprise Studio platform came out as a beta last summer and Synthesia claims more than 1,000 companies large and small are using it to design virtual human-hosted videos. You can see an example of its work in the video above, where a virtual human handles the funding announcement for the company.

“Today, video production is costly, complex and unscalable. It requires studios, actors, cameras and post-production. It’s an incredibly long and multidisciplinary process, rooted in physical space and sensors,” Synthesia CEO Victor Riparbelli said in a statement. “Our text-to-video technology allows businesses to produce professional looking videos in minutes instead of days. We have essentially reduced the entire video production process to a single API call or a few clicks in our web app.”

Virtual Humanity

Synthesia’s funding round is part of the larger trend of experimentation and use of virtual humans both for interactive and broadcast purposes. New tools like MetaHuman Creator’s ultrarealistic visuals and the synthetic voices from companies like Replica Studios enable companies to produce movies and games with characters performing words and actions that actors didn’t or couldn’t do. Virtual influencers can even make their own content with the right AI, as with the pop song-writing virtual influencer built by CoCo Hub. The other major facet of virtual human development goes for a more interactive approach. That’s what leads to an Einstein who can talk about his life, the Nestle Toll House “cookie coach” Ruth, or Virti’s doctor-training virtual humans.

Synthesia uses a variety of plans for bringing in revenue with its videos. The entry-level is $30 a month for 10 minutes of video, while the enterprise service and its extra time and features is a minimum of $500 a month. The new capital will go toward boosting the company’s growth and developing new products. Synthesia is creating an API to connect its technology to a client’s systems to streamline creating or updating a virtual human-hosted video.

“Synthetic, programmable media will be weaved into the fabric of every digital experience in the future — from the personalized news we’ll be watching, to our interactive AI teachers and eventually to the Hollywood blockbuster made by your favorite YouTuber from his or her bedroom,” Riparbelli said “This is the future that excites us and that’s what we’re building towards. And in this perspective, we’re still incredibly early on our journey.”


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