With the ever-increasing prevalence of Computer-Generated Imagery (CGI) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) in fashion, we begin to question if our favorite models will eventually be computer-produced.
Fashion models and influencers are becoming less popular as AI takes over. With the help of technology, fashion brands can create digital models that will promote their clothing to millions of followers on social media platforms like Instagram. These AI-generated fashion icons could potentially replace human ones in the future.
But to understand if we may one day see digitally generated models walking down catwalks or gracing magazine covers helps first to know how the technology works, its advantages, and challenges. So, let’s get started!
What are CGI models or influencers?
Virtual or CGI models are fictitious representations of actual people created by computers.
CGI uses computer software to create still or animated visual material. CGI is most commonly used to describe the 3D computer graphics used to create characters, scenes, and special effects in films and video games. Advertising, architecture, engineering, virtual reality, and even art use the technology.
Therefore, CGI models and influencers are virtual humans modeled and handcrafted by designers and programmers.
One of the most prominent examples might be Miquela (@liliquela), an influencer with 3 million Instagram followers and a flair for offering valuable tips, entirely phony.
Miquela even worked with Prada for Milan Fashion Week 2018 by uploading photographs of herself wearing their spring/summer 2018 collection while digitally attending their catwalk presentation, which is just one of many fantastic examples of AI influencers blurring the line between the digital and physical worlds.
But Miquela isn’t the first or last artificial intelligence influencer; in 2018, Olivier Rousteing, the creative director of the Balmain fashion brand, stated that his campaign would feature a whole cast of CGI models. Shudu (@shudu.gram), the world’s first digital supermodel, was among Rousteing’s cast members.
Shudu has been published in Vogue, a fashion magazine, where supermodels from all over the world compete for space on its pages.
CGI is not just taking over the influencer world. It has already made it to the field of traditional modeling.
DataGrid is a Japanese IT company whose AI algorithms employ generative adversarial networks (GANs) to create and simulate modeling. The digital models may give a wide range of posing possibilities identical to e-commerce and commercial modeling.
Zalando, a German e-commerce behemoth, has also released research papers using the GAN technique. The researchers developed an AI system capable of transferring customizable clothing and body positions from one fashion model. They employed an architecture primarily based on StyleGAN, a technology first released by NVIDIA in 2018.
It appears that it is just a matter of time until other fashion behemoths join on board.
How GCI models benefit marketing and eCommerce
GCI can assist marketers in reaching out to customers with highly targeted and tailored communications. It also allows influencers and celebrities to quickly widen their reach by agreeing to face a fashion ad campaign and model clothing without ever showing up for a photoshoot.
This isn’t a massive jump in a world where digital identities, such as gaming avatars, are already crossing with real-life identities, and CGI models are mingling with real-life influencers.
Consider a novel agreement where an influencer offers a business a sample of a few minutes of audio content and a few video clips. A brand may use deepfake technology—a type of CGI that uses AI to replace one person’s likeness with another in recorded footage—to turn the content into hundreds of hyper-targeted adverts.
Influencers may start renting their faces and voices to marketers. A computer can take their features and voices, duplicate them in various languages or poses, and choose the most convincing one.
The technology has already been applied successfully, for a good cause. A malaria awareness campaign starring David Beckham speaking nine languages in 2019 demonstrated how deepfakes might widen the reach of a public message, garnering 400 million impressions globally in two months.
Tencent mentions that the technology is already being utilized to create virtual models of various body shapes and ethnicities and allows consumers to try on garments digitally for a more engaging online shopping experience.
CGI technology may considerably minimize the time and waste associated with clothing sampling as an added benefit. It can reduce millions of tons of fabric waste while also propelling us more sustainable and efficient future.
It’s not unheard of for a model to shoot dozens of outfits for an e-commerce session in a single day, and most of those samples end wasted in landfills.
The unrealistic beauty standards of CGI models
Despite the apparent benefits of these new technologies, some challenges are impossible to ignore, and we would like to highlight a critical one.
One must wonder what type of beauty standard CGI models are establishing. Do we now have to compete with perfectly symmetrical CGI models on top of the unrealistic beauty standards of the fashion and beauty industries?
We’ve watched innumerable people struggle to live up to their favorite supermodel’s beauty; imagine if that supermodel’s beauty was computer-generated; it’s a challenging idea to grasp.
The actual meaning of unreachable beauty begs how this will affect future generations. While it may be advantageous for many organizations looking to promote online, the benefits of utilizing CGI models may not outweigh the possible detrimental influence on our genuine impression of beauty.
So, will models and influencers be replaced by AI in the future?
Modeling as a job has a high potential of being replaced by automation, calculated at around 93%.
There’s no denying that AI and CGI are cutting-edge technology. They may enhance human models to increase engagement and reach while hopefully keeping their authenticity. As technology progresses, we’ll see more marketing agencies employing CGI techniques to stay current. As a result, the number of human models may substantially decrease.
However, we believe that models and influencers will always be needed because of a personal connection with clients. Technology will never completely replace the human touch.