How Soul Machines brings next-gen avatars to life

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In the not-too-distant future, many of us may be using 3D headsets on a regular basis to interact in the metaverse with virtual iterations of lifelike businesses, friends, and corporate assistants. These may include Lily from AT&T, Flo from Progressive, Jake from State Farm, and Swami from CarShield. We will also interact with new friends like Nestlé Cookie Coach, Ruth, World Health Organization Digital Health Officer Florence, and many more.

The creation of digital characters for virtual reality applications and in e-commerce is a new and growing IT segment. San Francisco-based Soul Machines, a company steeped in both the animation and artificial intelligence (AI) industries, is jumping at the chance to create animated digital avatars to enhance interactions in the metaverse. Customers are much more likely to buy something when a familiar face – digital or human – is involved.

Investors, naturally, are hot on the idea. This week, the 6-year-old company revealed an infusion of Series B funding ($70 million) led by new investor SoftBank Vision Fund 2, bringing the company’s total funding to $135 million to date.

“As you know, as consumers, we are spending more and more of our time living in a digital world,” CEO and Founder Gregg Cross told VentureBeat. “It means we spend more time researching information, buying things, and interacting with other people and brands; so the world is more digital. One of the big problems with the digital world is that it’s more transactional than the real world, so it’s getting harder and harder to make human connections, and human connections are at the heart of brands.

“You know, very few big companies in the world exist because they have the most efficient processor for transactions. Search in any category: luxury fashion, automotive, bakery ingredients, to name a few -ones; it’s all about attaching value to a brand. So our fundamental thesis is that in a more digital world, we need to find new ways to create human connections. And that’s what our digital workers are doing. for our customers. And I can do that in the 3D world of the Internet today.

Soul Machines describes itself as “designing intelligent, emotionally responsive avatars that change the way people interact with machines.” Its avatars allow users to get help to improve modern life by revolutionizing the way artificial intelligence, robots and machines interact with them.

The company is focused on creating what it calls “the future of customer experience,” which delivers highly personalized brand experiences at scale while collecting detailed customer insights in a way that doesn’t. It wasn’t possible before, Cross said.

Soul Machines works with global brands and celebrities including NBA All-Star Carmelo Anthony, Nestlé Toll House Chocolate, Procter & Gamble Twitch, World Health Organization, Pan American Health Organization and a list of others. Avatar makers in the market also include Adobe, ReadyPlayer, AvatarMaker, Union Avatars, In3D.io and others.

Realistic interactions in a virtual world

Soul Machines was founded in 2016 by serial entrepreneur Cross and Oscar winner Mark Sagar. Sagar won Academy Awards for Science and Engineering in 2010 and 2011 for developing influential facial motion retargeting solutions that greatly influenced the creation of computer-animated feature films.

His work led to a method of transforming facial motion capture data into an expression-based editable character animation system to create more realistic digital characters. All of this science is packed into Soul Machines templates and templates that customers can use to start creating their own avatars.

“Soul Machines believes that every industry will deploy digital people as a digital workforce to represent themselves and their brands in the metaverse,” Cross said. “The future of customer experience in digital worlds will be key to winning in all digital worlds where people do business, work and play.”

Cross said the company will use its latest investment to continue its rapid growth in the enterprise market, with a particular focus on continuing its in-depth technological research into its Digital Brain technology and launching the future of digital entertainment. for the metaverse with hyper-realistic digital twins of real life celebrities.

Additional participation in this round comes from new investors Cleveland Avenue, Liberty City Ventures and Solasta Ventures. Existing investors, including Temasek, Salesforce Ventures and Horizons Ventures, who also participated in this round.

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