Sber Creates Virtual Human to Host Russian TV Show
A virtual human built by Russian tech and finance giant Sber is hosting the Markets and Investor Calendar shows on RBC TV this month. Sber’s subsidiary SberDevices designed virtual host Elena using its new Visper platform for transforming pictures and audio recordings into AI characters that can realistically imitate human beings.
Elena is an example of the kind of avatar that SberDevices hopes users will make with Visper. The platform can generate virtual characters ranging from photorealistic humans Elena to cartoony characters with no analog in the real world. Sber sees these avatars as a valuable tool for presentations and interactions online or through TV shows. Visper debuted only a couple of months ago, but Sber has already begun expanding its feature list.
“The Visper platform is quite young, but it is evolving rapidly, and the characters we create with it. For example, they have recently learned to speak English,” SberDevices CEO Konstantin Kruglov said in a statement. “We are pleased to see how they take new images and assume new functions every day, and Elena is now on television! We are happy to cooperate with RBC on this project and hope that our very first virtual host will discover new topics of the broadcasts for her.”
The TV show in Russia is only one of a rapidly mushrooming number of outlets where virtual humans can appear. The entertainment industry has been particularly quick to jump on the new technology. For instance, Nikkei Innovation Lab and Datagrid in Japan have launched their own platform for virtual human videos, with news anchors at the top of the list for initial characters. In October, Cameo hired The Boss Baby, or at least the character’s AI-powered digital clone, to do personalized videos. Technical improvements have accelerated the experiments, as did Unreal’s launch of MetaHuman Creator in February. Hour One worked with YouTube star Taryn Southern to make a virtual clone and receptionists for guiding people around buildings. There’s also Nestle Toll House’s virtual human “cookie coach” Ruth and CoCo Hub’s artificial popstars. Just last week, StoryFile released a virtual version of William Shatner able to answer questions about his life story. As demand rises for virtual humans, Visper may end up competing well beyond its Russian origin.
“This is an interesting and important experiment for RBC. Similar technology is developing throughout the world, and we will soon see similar virtual hosts on many channels,” RBC TV managing director Ilya Doronov said in a statement. “This is why we are especially pleased to be the first who has dared to put Elena to test on the air of RBC TV.”