By Khrissie Farrands, Designer at Coley Porter Bell
Over the last few months I have noticed a lot in the news about AI technology. Life-like influencer bots have been created digitally to sell fashion and lifestyle brands like Opening Ceremony, Supreme and even their own merchandise by interacting with consumers and fans through Instagram. It first came to my attention when social media influencer, Lil Miquela, was revealed as actually being an AI bot. Another AI influencer named Bermuda (created by competitor company Cain Intelligence) hacked into Lil Miquela’s account and revealed to her 1.4m followers that this ‘person’ wasn’t real. Fans were outraged that Lil Miquela and her creators had been lying to them, and although this caused a backlash within the community, this also started a conversation and put these new tech companies on the map.
I found myself asking how this could possibly be real. It was scary to realise that a technology company could fool 1.4m people into thinking that a bot was a real human. My mind was blown.
After some digging, I discovered that Lil Miquela’s creators are part of a highly intelligent company called Brud.fyi. They actually create AI bots with conscious minds, which are able to think and make their own decisions. This kind of technology meant that Lil Miquela could live her fake, online life without conscious input from the company that made her.
This technology didn’t fool everyone though, some eagle-eyed fans did start to question her existence. Did people not care that she was a bot? Did it not matter, as long as the aesthetic of her photos was perfect? Once the secret about Lil Miquela was out, Brud.fyi decided to buy Bermuda from its rivals. They gave her a pixel perfect makeover and relaunched her as their own. Not only were people commenting on Bermuda’s beauty but, but they also were complimenting her new level of render, interacting with her as if she was real. Whether our ‘perfect’ idols are real or not doesn’t seem to matter anymore.
Fashion label Balmain recently launched its very first campaign with AI models as the face of it. After seeing the controversy with Lil Miquela I questioned why such a highly influential brand would do this? Where do we draw the line in our quest for perfection? And how will this new technology affect younger generations?
These days, even the real people we see online already come with photoshopped complexions and face-tuned features, so what is ‘real’ anyway? This is simply just another example of unachievable beauty standards.
In comparison, we are also seeing a rise in ‘real’, with brands taking a stand and having confidence with a voice of their own. Boots have moved into this area with their recent faceless ad campaign highlighting how beauty makes you feel rather than look, with a range of non-professional models. There has also been a rise in influencers like Megan Crabbe, with her 1M-follower Instagram account, ‘bodyposipanda’. She is undeniably herself and is the queen of body positivity and a huge influence to many women of all shapes and sizes.
The art and technology that goes into these bots is fascinating, but with it brings concerns around younger generations feeling the need to be pixel perfect. The Balmain campaign is beautiful, and to some extent shows inclusivity, but why not celebrate diversity with real models? Technology is all well and good but what about the social responsibility these brands have?
It’s an interesting discussion, and one that I’m sure will develop over the next few years to the point where we could even start to see moving, talking bots on our TV screens.
Bots VS humans. Whose side are you on?