Virtual Humans Are Made by Humans1)
Virtual humans refer to a character who is not a real person but is created with computer graphics and voiced by artificial intelligence technology on the Internet. And recently, the world of virtual humans is expanding beyond the Internet. On July 1, 2021, insurance company Shinhan Life selected Rosie, a virtual influencer, as their advertising model. The advertisement surpassed 690,000 YouTube views within six days of its release. The reason why virtual human utilization has increased especially in marketing is because of the characteristics of virtual humans. Although virtual humans cost money due to technology investment, they can reduce labor costs and added value by creating new IPs instead of using actual people. In this way, when making a broadcast video, it is possible to create it with only a script, saving time for both the cast and the company. Seo Yonggu, a professor in the Division of Business Administration at Sookmyung Women's University, said, "If a company uses a celebrity as its public face, there is a big risk that person could get caught up in a scandal. On the other hand, virtual humans provide zero risk and can stably embody the brand's personality 24 hours a day, which is why companies are increasingly demanding virtual humans." Thus, companies' preference for virtual humans, like Rosie, is increasing.
Reflecting this demand, the virtual human market is showing high growth. According to Emergen Research, the virtual human market was worth 10 trillion won in 2020 and is expected to grow 46.4% annually to 527 trillion won in 2030. However, some point out that the stereotypes of human society are reproduced and highlighted through virtual humans. In fact, most of the virtual humans that have appeared so far are young and pretty women in their 20s. Especially, in the cosmetics and fashion industries, consumers are mainly women. So, they want to make female virtual humans that stimulate a "want to be similar" reaction and more easily bring about affinity and intimacy. However, this soon leads to a virtual human appearance assessment. "There is no charm because she has a wide gap between her eyes" and "It looks tacky" are comments posted on Instagram about Rosie. Lee Heeeun, a professor at Chosun University, said "The problem is that sexual images and values of human society are embodied in technology and naturally reciprocated. New technologies like AI seem to be objective, but there is a kind of "black box" in them that makes us misunderstand." As such, virtual humans have the advantage of not having to worry about causing problems unlike actual celebrities, but because they are created by humans, the sexual and value problems that exist in society are reflected as they are.
1) Maeng Hakyung, "Rosie, Lucy, Ra... Why are virtual humans all slim and young women?", The Hankook Ilbo, October 14, 2021