Andrew Yang Campaigns for NYC Mayor With Virtual Human Avatar
Andrew Yang generated a virtual version of himself as part of his campaign for mayor of New York City. The digital Yang, produced using AI analysis of photos of the candidate, appeared to campaign in a virtual New York on the Zepeto platform, part of the growing ‘metaverse’ of virtual human interaction.
Yang joined the other slightly cartoonish avatars on the Zepeto platform, exploring a digital version of the city. Besides drawing some headlines, the other reason for Yang to campaign on Zepeto, which to be the fastest-growing avatar company in the world, is the current userbase. Zepeto has had more than 200 million users since it launched, and the company claims 90% of its users are under 24. The Gen Z voter group is one that is still feeling out its politics, and the virtual space made for a good opportunity for Yang to pitch his candidacy. Yang went to the virtual Times Square and gave a short speech followed by a Q&A via his pixelated counterpart. He discussed the value of the metaverse as a venue for businesses and entrepreneurs and how New York City should be a center for the creator economy.
“I’m a big fan of virtual economies. I think it can be a path forward for a lot of New Yorkers and young people,” Yang said. “New York City should be the creative capital of the world. I really want to take a big swing at improving millions of people’s lives here in New York, by getting buying power into their hands.”
Yang’s experiment is likely to see plenty of imitators over the next few years both as a political strategy and as the technology continues to improve rapidly. Zepeto relies on a stylized look for its avatars, but MetaHuman Creator’s ultrarealistic visuals prove that it’s only a matter of time before anyone can make a mask of themselves that is hard to distinguish from the real thing. In combination with powerful synthetic speech tools like those offered by Replica Studios, an entire virtual human could be made that simulates a real person to an extraordinary degree. That’s what the Einstein digital clone does to a certain extent, as does the virtual alter ego YouTube star Taryn Southern created of herself. After all, what better surrogate for candidates could there be but the candidates themselves, trained on their own voice to answer some questions and with a virtual face that makes it seem like you are talking to them directly.