This blog is based on the article “AI with a Human Face – The New Human-Machine Relationship“, published in HBR March-April 2023.
In the rapidly evolving landscape of technology, digital humans have emerged as a groundbreaking innovation, transforming the way businesses interact with their customers. As companies strive to create immersive and engaging experiences, it is crucial to understand the design considerations and specific nature of digital humans. This article delves into the main purpose of interactions and the degree of personalization involved, categorizing digital humans into four distinct types. Additionally, it explores the inner workings of digital humans and the role of advanced AI algorithms in driving their interactivity. Finally, it touches upon the future of human-machine relationships and the ethical challenges that lie ahead.
What Triggers Our Connection: Understanding the Impact of Digital Humans
Digital humans, despite being artificial constructs, have a remarkable ability to trigger a genuine connection with us as humans. This phenomenon arises from our innate inclination to respond emotionally to facial signals and human-like appearances. Research in neuroscience reveals that our minds are naturally attuned to and emotionally reactive to facial expressions. This is why we often prefer face-to-face communication over other forms of interaction. Even though we are aware that digital humans are virtual entities, we instinctively connect with them and interpret their facial signals, allowing for effective exchanges.
As a result, digital humans have the potential to provide meaningful experiences that go beyond the capabilities of other automated channels. Customers are more likely to extend their interactions with digital humans, moving beyond initial searches or transactions. Hao Li, cofounder and CEO of Pinscreen, highlights the importance of engagement and exploration: “You want the customer to [explore] how things [like clothes] could be and how they might like them to look. From a user experience standpoint, you want to keep them engaged and able to explore the brand.”
This ability to trigger an emotional and engaging response makes digital humans a powerful tool for brand communication. They allow brands to create personalized and immersive experiences that resonate with customers on a deeper level. By leveraging the human-like qualities of digital humans, brands can establish a stronger connection, foster brand loyalty, and enable customers to explore and engage with their products or services in a more meaningful way.
In the evolving landscape of brand communication, digital humans offer a unique opportunity to bridge the gap between technology and human interaction. By combining cutting-edge technology with human-like traits, brands can create authentic and engaging experiences that leave a lasting impact on their audience.
Understanding the Purpose of Interactions
The primary purpose of a digital human interaction can be either task-oriented or experiential. Task-oriented interactions aim to assist users in completing specific objectives, such as booking flights, retrieving information, or filing complaints. In contrast, experiential interactions focus on providing immersive and engaging experiences, such as browsing online stores, enjoying entertainment content, or participating in therapeutic sessions. Understanding the purpose of the interaction helps determine the appropriate design and nature of the digital human.
The Depth of Interaction
The depth of interaction refers to the level of personalization involved. In some cases, digital humans build a rapport with individual users over time, offering increasingly personalized experiences. This is often seen in scenarios where users have regular interactions with the same digital human. On the other hand, certain interactions remain transactional or experiential, with no personal rapport developing between a specific customer and a particular digital human.
Four Types of Digital Humans
Based on the purpose of interaction and the depth of engagement, digital humans can be categorized into four distinct types:
- Virtual agents: Task-focused digital humans that engage in intermittent business relationships, such as digital patients, call-center agents, instructors, and sales agents.
- Virtual assistants: Task-focused digital humans that maintain ongoing personal relationships with users, like rehabilitation therapists, personal assistants, and career coaches.
- Virtual influencers: Digital humans focused on providing an experiential interaction, engaging in intermittent business relationships. They serve as social influencers, offering unique experiences to their followers.
- Virtual companions: Digital humans that provide an immersive experience and maintain ongoing personal relationships. Examples include aged-care companions who offer companionship and support.
How Digital Humans Work
Creating a digital human requires a combination of artistic and scientific expertise. Computer artists create 3D models of human faces and bodies, rigging them with controls for lifelike movements. AI algorithms then animate the digital human, utilizing vast libraries of facial expressions, body language, and voice patterns. Natural language processing (NLP) and generation (NLG) algorithms enable digital humans to understand and respond to user input. Advanced techniques like generative adversarial networks (GANs) help create realistic facial animations synchronized with voice.
The Role of DiALOGiFY: Enabling Personalized Conversations
DiALOGiFY, a leading conversational cloud, is at the forefront of the digital human revolution. Their virtual humans, driven by advanced AI algorithms, facilitate immersive conversations that enable brands to build deeper and more personalized relationships with customers. By deploying digital humans, businesses can provide scalable, 24/7 customer service without compromising the personal touch that fosters strong customer relationships. Get a glimpse of how this could look on your webpage.
The Future of Human-Machine Relationships
Digital humans are poised to become an integral part of our lives, finding applications in diverse industries such as education, healthcare, entertainment, and retail. As their capabilities continue to improve, they will take on more complex tasks and roles. However, this advancement also raises ethical questions, necessitating responsible usage and ensuring user awareness. Thoughtful policies and regulations are crucial in harnessing the potential of digital humans while addressing ethical concerns.
The Importance of Realistic Expectations
While digital humans offer tremendous potential, they cannot fully replace human involvement in complex, nuanced interactions. Cognitive understanding, emotional intelligence, and contextual comprehension are domains where human intelligence excels. Companies must maintain a realistic perspective on the limitations of digital humans despite their rapid development.
Digital humans are revolutionizing customer interactions and internal processes in businesses across various industries. By understanding the purpose, depth of interaction, and appropriate design considerations, companies can effectively leverage the power of digital humans to create immersive experiences and foster strong relationships. As technology continues to evolve, embracing digital humans can give businesses a competitive edge in delivering personalized services and engaging experiences.
In the march towards the future, those who embrace this technology, like the innovative solutions offered by DiALOGiFY’s conversational cloud, will be at the forefront of customer experience, propelling their businesses into an exciting new era.
Are you up for a discussion about how digital humans could elevate the customer experience? Get in contact with us.