The virtual character Zero makes an appearance

Photo courtesy Zero Pointing

Zero, a virtual influencer and “cyborg” with spiky red hair, made an appearance via Zoom at SXSW today. The animated character lives “in a bunker” in the “Nexus” universe, a storytelling universe created by Offbeat Media Group.

“Hello how are you today. My name is Zero and I’m so happy to be here with you,” Zero said in a robotic voice. “I heard I was going to speak to a Mark Cuban. Mark Cuban, I have a question for you.

Zero suddenly changed his voice, and it became clear that he was actually being voiced by a live voice actor: “How would you like my fake AI voice? That was pretty good?”

Zero is operated by an Atlanta-based studio team. It appears that for live events he speaks through a voice actor, and his movements and facial expressions are captured by someone wearing a motion sensor suit. Zero’s animated videos are then rendered in real time for the live audience.

Today at SXSW, Offbeat co-founders Shep Ogden and Christopher Travers spoke alongside investor Mark Cuban about how zero worksand shared their predictions for the future of virtual influencers.

“Zero, our Virtual Human who will join the panel today is produced in real time. Nothing was pre-recorded today and Zero will be interacting with us as a normal human influencer would via video call,” Ogden told The Daily Dot ahead of the panel.

Ogden, Travers, and Cuban said that eventually Zero’s storyline in his virtual world could be collectively determined by NFT holders. You’ve heard of NFTs, or internet-centric traceable products like images… SXSW 2022 is rich with the tech sector figuring out what to do with them as they become mainstream.

“Where we can use NFTs is that they allow us to have the owners of the NFTs – no matter how they got them or how they gave them up – to influence the scenarios associated with the virtual human. For me, that was really cool,” Cuban said during the panel.

Ogden explained how buying an NFT could become a bet on the success of a virtual influencer.

“If this thing starts to become a celebrity and you’re one of the first people to make a bet, that NFT has a lot of value,” Ogden explained during the panel.

Odgen explained to the Daily Dot the place of human influencers in this virtual reality: “I think human influencers will engage with non-human influencers as they would with another human. They will be able to create content together and interact on social networks. They will also create their own non-human influencers to expand their online presence.

However, the panel was also excited about the potential for non-human influencers to become completely empowered in the future.

Travers argued that although the technology is far from ready, virtual influencers could eventually be driven by artificial intelligence. AI could potentially learn to respond to what people say with certain facial expressions, body movements, and voice inflections.

Cuban agreed, “You won’t need someone behind the curtain to do this. Manners will be intuitive to what is being said. No one has made that connection to virtual humans yet. But it will.

He continued, “As technology evolves, every stage of technology is replaced, from humans to the most advanced technology, mainly based on AI and computer vision. It is the promise and the direction. Being able to interact like that is incredible, but you have to know where you’re going.

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*First published: March 12, 2022, 6:51 p.m. CST

Grace Stanley

Grace Stanley is a journalist covering tips and tricks for creators and influencers. They were previously social media managers for Nautilus Magazine and attended the University of Texas at Austin.

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