Virtual Being Developer Hour One Raises $20M
Virtual human startup Hour One has raised $20 million in a Series A funding round led by Insight Partners. Hour One produces digital clones of people that can move and speak realistically for synthesized videos and interactive avatars usable in the real world and the virtual workspaces of the metaverse.
Hour One AI
Hour One generates its virtual humans using AI to analyze and mimic a video recording of someone moving and speaking. The software version can then be instructed to give a new speech with words and phrases not previously recorded. The text-to-speech (TTS) engine gets the AI avatar to speak the new content and the visual rendering dynamically adjusts the video image to make the spoken words seem naturally delivered by the video image. The AI can even produce reproduce the original speaker’s voice in a different language.
Companies use Hour One avatars for receptionists, sales, HR, and language teachers, among other roles, and the person behind the original recording earns money when their avatar is used. Hour One recently debuted a new self-service platform for producing videos with virtual humans called Reals to speed up the process even more. A client could put together a text for a virtual human to perform and have it ready in less than an hour. The new money is earmarked for further streamlining the process of generating virtual humans on more platforms.
“The ability to easily turn any person into a virtual character that can then be activated using just text, will completely transform the way businesses and their customers engage each other,” Hour One CEO Oren Aharon said. “Very soon, any person will be able to have a virtual twin for professional use that can deliver content on their behalf, speak in any language, and scale their productivity in ways previously unimaginable. We’re incredibly excited that Insight Partners has come on board at this pivotal moment in our journey.”
Startups that can digitally reproduce people for videos and interactions are seeing a lot of interest from investors. That’s only accelerated as the digitally connected worlds of the metaverse encourage more experimentation with combing ing I and synthetic media. The steady drumbeat of funding nabbed Inworld $10 million, Neosapience $21.5 million, and Soul Machines $70 million, just this year. Hour One stands out in its real-world focus, however. Virtual beings at kiosks and information booths, or starring in industrial videos more cheaply than human actors will likely garner plenty more future clients, regardless of the platforms they work on.