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NEW YORK (CBSMiami) – Many things you see online are not what they appear to be.
For example, there are social media influencers who are paid to promote brands and products. In fact, some influencers are not real people at all. There are some are computer generated influencers that have more than a million followers each.
Online modeling’s latest ‘it girl’ is Lil Miquela. However, she’s not a real person, she’s an avatar designed by artists and built by computers. So is Shudu who has been dubbed the world’s first digital supermodel.
“Shudu was inspired by a Barbie doll,” said Shudu creator Cameron James Wilson. “She just became so popular.”
Wilson, a London photographer and designer, is the human behind the avatar.
“CGI and 3D models offer a way for us to explore or create things that we never ever seen before,” he said, “Like how can we explore beauty in a world that’s only limited by the physical things around us.
With close to 125k followers, Shudu is also a virtual influencer. Just last week, Shudu debuted her first fashion editorial with Women’s Wear Daily. Wilson said he, or she, was not paid like a human fashion model would be.
“We are blurring the lines between fiction and reality,” said attorney David Polgar who studies the ethics of technology. He feels the FTC needs to have guidelines for CGI influencers.
“The impetus is on the legislative branch to say ‘okay, maybe we need better transparency’. There’s been a lot of discussion about technology moving at a much faster pace than the law has been able to catch up,” he said.
Polgar said there are pitfalls in using CGI influencers.
“If it is a fictional character that a consumer doesn’t know if it’s real, then to a large extent that is not actually a person. That’s just an extended brand. So I think what we would have to worry about is should there be transparency that would be needed about the interaction with that brand,” he said.
Lil Miquela is a fast-growing brand. The AI model/musician has over 1.2 million followers and is growing as an influencer of sporting and designer clothes. Her creators, a robotics and AI company called Brud, have maintained an allure of anonymity.
Ryan Teng is the vice president of CLO, the company behind the 3D software used to digitize the clothes on these virtual models.
“Everyone has their own take of what they think their reality should look like. I think 3D just kind of gives the extra step to increase your creativity for that reality,” he said.
While CGI supermodels are a first for their company, Teng says fashion has been blurring lines for years with digital garments.
“There’s a lot of 3D going on that no one knows about,” said Teng.
Is there a point where the crossover between CGI and fashion becomes a lie?
“I don’t feel like it’s dishonest. I feel like it still does the job of whatever it’s supposed to do. You’re not getting a fake garment when it comes,” said Teng. “It’s become a part of the supply chain that every company actually needs. I think this is the year you’ll start noticing that more people are utilizing those assets.”
Miquela has proven she’s here to stay. In March she posed for free in New York’s fashion magazine “V” wearing luxury brands like Versace, Fendi, and Chanel.
“Miquela’s just an interesting subject and I think a really interesting conversation right now is, again, about the authenticity in this digital age, how much of what’s out there content wise is real,” said Devin Barrett, an associate editor with V.
He sees a bright future for virtual models.
“Brands ultimately want to be involved in an interesting story, in a story that gets traction, otherwise, it’s just product at the end of the day,” he said.