Virtual Beings Startup Soul Machines Raises $70M
Metaverse virtual being developer Soul Machines has raised $70 million in a Series B funding round led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2. The startup behind Nestle Toll House’s virtual cookie coach and other digital beings has raised $135 million in total and is aiming at more enterprise development as the interlinked worlds of the metaverse continue to evolve.
Soul Machines has been developing virtual humans since 2016 with an eye toward branded creations representing companies in the real world in what is now called the metaverse. That means customer service, advertising, and entertainment using AI attached to synthetic voices and visuals. Along with cookie coach Ruth for Nestle Toll House, Soul Machines is behind a wide range of projects including Ella, the New Zealand police department virtual officer who interacts with visitors to a police station via a standing kiosk. The new funding included new investors Cleveland Avenue, Liberty City Ventures and Solasta Ventures along with SoftBank and a handful of previous funding partners. Soul Machines is working on upping its business as well as creating digital twins of celebrities to deploy in the metaverse.
“I am thrilled to continue to work with innovative, global brands who understand the power of digital people to communicate, engage and interact with the world,” Soul Machines chief business officer Greg Cross said. “We are in a transformational era where brands need to introduce different ways of personalization and ways to deliver unique brand experiences to customers in a very transactional digital world.”
As conversational AI and synthetic speech and video improve, the virtual beings created by Soul Machines and others are more in demand. The robotic voices and faces are now able to mimic people’s emotions and even be flirtatious as startup Sonantic recently demonstrated. Entertainment experiments are popping up all over. LG recently announced that its virtual spokesperson would be recording a music album, following in CoCo Hub’s virtual footsteps. On Russian TV, Sber has even deployed a virtual show host. On a more personal level, the cookie coach and virtual police officer fit the trend that led to Uneeq’s Einstein digital clone and StoryFile’s virtual version of William Shatner, not to mention The Boss Baby on Cameo and YouTube star Taryn Southern’s virtual clone.