In discussions about automation taking over jobs, attention usually centers on jobs in the manufacturing and service sectors. But those who make their living as "influencers" on Instagram and other channels should also be worried.
At least that's one conclusion you could draw based on the existence of 'Liam Nikuro', a virtual influencer created by a company called 1sec Inc.
According to the company, which has Tokyo and LA offices, Nikuro is Japan's first male virtual influencer. A 3D computer-sculpted head mapped onto to a live-action body, he seeks work "in the fields of music, fashion, and entertainment, where he will be involved in the production of a wide range of content as a multimedia producer", according to the company, which also mentions using AI to create innovative content.
Nikuro has built modest Instagram and Twitter followings in the days since he burst onto the scene (his first post was on 27 March). His feed includes an image of himself twiddling the knobs in a music studio while sporting a Valentino t-shirt, as well as pictures where he's posing in garb from Balenciaga, Acne Studios and others while opining about topics such as wishing to see sakura (cherry blossoms) and not caring for cold weather.
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Nikuro is of course not the first virtual celebrity. In fact, he's an unknown upstart compared with the queen of the photo-realistic virtual influencers, Lil Miquela, who boasts 1.5 million Instagram followers. The field also includes more cartoonish beings, such as Japan's own Kizuna AI and Hatsune Miku, the fictional EA Sports footballer Alex Hunter, UK musical act Gorillaz and Kim Kardashian.
All joking aside, we can probably look forward to an explosion in the population of entities like Nikuro, as the area has recently been attracting significant venture capital.
"Liam may be virtual, but we are aiming to create content that is just as fascinating and cool as what his real counterparts have to offer, and to entertain people all over the planet,” a person referred to only as 'Genie' and purported to be the producer of the Liam Nikuro project, said in a release. “We are working on a variety of projects that we intend to bring to the world in the near future."
Nikuro comes furnished with a bio—his mother is Japanese and his father American, we're told—and a voice, of sorts.
"I can’t do much by myself," he 'said' in an Instagram post. "I need power and ideas from everyone across the globe. If you’re thinking, 'I want to change the world and create something interesting. I want to make people happy!' Then please tell your friends and family about me, and follow me. I hope I can connect with you and your friends to gather new ideas and build something fascinating together."
It's not clear whether Nikuro is voiced by an AI or by handlers at 1sec. In a short Q&A the company provided, he comes across as eager to drop brand names, but rather robotic and shallow otherwise (in other words, extremely realistic for an influencer). A sample:
Q: What kind of fashion do you like?
A: Recently, I like “street feeling” style. For example, OFF WHITE and HERON PRESTON but BURBERRY after Ricardo Tissi is also cool, and I like wearing John Ellio K's sweater on my day off too. There are too many clothes that I like, and I don't have enough bodies to wear them all! By the way, I want to try some clothes like Doublet edge in Japan. Can anyone do the styling for me?
Q: Who is your favorite artist?
A: Bruno Mars, Justin Bieber, Drake, Kendrick Lamar, The Notorious B.I.G., and 2pac.
Q: You like cosmetics?
A: Cosmetics for men are nice. I want to try THREE FIVEISM's concealer when I'm worried about my freckles, but I don't really have a chance to try it because I don’t have any makeup artist comes with my shooting. For Cosmetics, I think Japanese manufacturers are the best.
Q.What’s your favorite food?
A: I like the fried sweet potato wedges at the hamburger joint called The Golden State in LA. Oh and the ramen in Ippudo is good too!
Q.Are you interested in art?
A: I like Basquiat , Takashi Murakami and I like MAD SAKI’s art too! I knew them from the decoration in the cafe which I go often, called Stall in Nakameguro. Paints were hanging from the eyes of Picasso's Geronica's [sic] homage and Mona Lisa, they were crying, but the art was really impressive.
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