Big tech and its avatar war to push us into the metaverse –

Internet giants are launching a new “hype”, that of generative artificial intelligence. With ChatGPT or the Lensa app, AI imposes the visual culture of avatars that should prepare us for the metaverse.

Generative artificial intelligence (AI), we haven’t talked about this for six months. They are computer programs capable of producing images from a simple description, or original texts from a brief indication. ChatGPT set the internet on fire. This AI is capable of rationally answering questions, composing music, and even writing an essay.

In just five days, over a million people has registered to test this robot conversational🇧🇷 Screenshots of conversations with him went viral on Twitter.

You may have noticed changes in your friends’ profile pictures on social networks, suddenly becoming princesses, space travelers or very kawaii manga characters, through the image editing application Lensa, from Prisma Labs.

This app uses your selfies and artificial intelligence to generate magical avatars in a variety of styles. But very quickly, the app shows a dark side.

>> Read also: The Dark Sides of the Lensa AI Image Editing App

Users denounced the sexualization of the photos, with nude avatars and larger breasts than the original. Concerns were also raised about the issue of data and its use.

Behind the scenes, a silent war

However, all this looks like a smokescreen. For the internet giants, AI is now used to make us adhere to avatars and mostly to manufacture them. The ads went unnoticed. Internet giants are quietly buying companies that develop generative AI. This market would have grown 425% since 2020, to reach more than 2 billion dollars, according to Pitchbook quoted by the Financial Times🇧🇷

Specifically, WhatsApp (owned by Meta, formerly Facebook) implemented 3D avatars in December. Users can create custom stunt doubles, complete with colors, clothing, accessories and facial expressions.

In turn, Google acquired the start-up Alter, which developed a solution to create avatars using artificial intelligence technologies. An acquisition worth around 100 million dollars.

Avatars, a strategy to enter the metaverse

Why this rush for avatars that make us prettier, bigger and stronger? To sell us the metaverse, of which it is a gateway. You have to be able to love your digital double to use it.

Case in point: When Horizon Worlds, Meta’s metaverse, launched, its boss Mark Zuckerberg became the laughingstock of the internet. His avatar, a trunk without legs, with the Eiffel Tower and the Sagrada Familia in the background, looked hand drawn.

Mark Zuckerberg’s avatar, when Horizon Worlds launched in 2022. [DR – Meta]

But we don’t mess with the metaverse. Very reactive, Mark Zuckerberg announced a major graphic overhaul, to maintain control of communication: the avatars will have legs. Avatars (and their legs) are therefore a strategic issue.

A world of filters

For a long time, the representation of the human being aimed at similarity. We always admire paintings faithful to reality. But in the age of Instagram and Snapchat filters, the requirement for realism disappears. Self-representations are less and less realist🇧🇷

Slowly but surely, generative AI and its applications have managed to impose this “changed” image culture. The salvation of the metaverse will perhaps pass through the visual success of the avatars. A good avatar is an avatar we adhere to.

>> See also the CTRL+Z column in ChatGPT, the new discussion space powered by artificial intelligence:

CTRL+Z - ChatGPT, the new AI-powered discussion space [RTS]

CTRL+Z – ChatGPT, the new discussion space powered by artificial intelligence / La Matinale / 4 min. / December 9, 2022

The digital world offers us the possibility of creating an identity that is not necessarily linked to our personal experience, or to our true personality. Thanks to digital doubles, we will no longer need to look for a better version of ourselves in real life. See you in the metaverse in a few years.

Miruna Coca-Cozma

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