Tuesday, August 16, 2022

How South Korea's artificial beauty is attracting the world's young women?

How South Korea's artificial beauty is attracting the world's young women?

She has more than 130,000 followers on Instagram, where she shares pictures of her adventures. Her makeup looks top notch. Dressed as if ready to walk the runway. She sings, dances and also models. But none of these are real.

Rosie is a South Korean 'virtual influencer'. She is a digitally created person who seems real. Except for flesh and blood, everything is compatible with humans.

'Are you a real person?' asks one of his Instagram fans, 'Are you artificial intelligence (AI) or a robot?'

According to the Seoul-based company that created her, Rosie is a mix of the real and virtual worlds.

Sidus Studio X wrote on its website, "She is capable of doing everything a human can do," including billions of dollars worth of advertising and entertainment profits.

After the production of Rosie in 2020, she made commercial agreements with brands, brought sponsors. She graced the runway in a virtual fashion show and also performed two songs.

And now he is not alone.

The virtual human industry is booming and with it an entirely new economy is being created that is never outdated, conflict free and digitally hassle free. A new bell of virtual human has rung in the country which is already chasing beauty.

How does virtual influencer work?

CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) making a living is nothing new. It is ubiquitous in today's entertainment industry, where artists use it to create realistic nonhumans in films, computer games, and music videos. But it has only recently been used effectively.

Sometimes Seeds Studio X uses technology to create an image of Rosie from head to toe, creating her Instagram image. At other times, her head is transformed into the body of a human model when she is dressed and modelling.

South Korean retail brand Lotte Home Shopping created a virtual influencer named Lucy, who has 78,000 followers on Instagram, using software used to create video games.

Like real-life friends, virtual influencers grow followers through social media. Also, they post snapshots and interact with followers.

Rosie's account shows her on a trip to Singapore, sitting on a rooftop enjoying wine. Also, fans also praise her outfit.

Older generations may find it difficult to interact with artificial humans. But virtual influencers interact with young Koreans and internet users who spend a lot of time online.

Lina Yong, a 23-year-old teenager living in the city of Incheon, followed Rosie two years ago, saying she was a real person. Rosie also gave him followbacks and sometimes commented on his posts. In this way, the virtual friendship of these two people blossomed, which lasted even after Lina found out the truth.

We talked like friends and I felt comfortable. So I don't think of her as an AI but as a real friend," she says. "I like Rosie's content. She's so beautiful I can't believe she's an AI.'

Profitable business

Social media doesn't just activate virtual influencers to create fans, rather their purpose is to activate them from where they can make a profit.

For example, Rosie's Instagram is full of sponsored content, where she advertises skincare and fashion products. "Many big companies in Korea want to use Rosie as a model," said Baek Seong-yup, Executive Officer of Seeds Studio X. "We expect to easily earn two billion Korean Won (US$1.52 million) in profit from Rose alone this year."

As Rosie's popularity has increased, the company has received additional sponsorships from luxury brands such as Chanel and Herm├Ęs, as well as magazines and other media companies. Advertisements of Rosie are now appearing on television and billboards and even near buses.

According to Lee Bo Hyun, director of Lotte Home Shopping's media business department, Lotte expects the same from Lucy, which has received advertising offers from financial and construction companies.

Experts say models are in high demand because they help brands reach young consumers. Rozi's clients include life insurance firms and banks. The company is generally seen as old-fashioned. But after working with Rosie, their image has become much younger,” says Beck.

A question about beauty

South Korea is not the only place that embraces virtual influencers. Lil Miquela is one of the most famous virtual influencers in the world, created by the co-founder of an American technology company. Lil' Mikel, who has promoted world-class brands such as Calvin Klein and Prada, has over 3 million followers on Instagram.

Lou of Magalu, a Brazilian retail company, has nearly 6 million Instagram users, and FN Meca, a rapper from music company Factory New, has 10 million Tiktok followers.

According to Inha University's Department of Consumer Sciences professor Lee Yun Hee, there is one major difference - virtual influencers in other countries reflect a diversity of ethnic backgrounds and beauty ideals.

Virtual humans are everywhere, but in South Korea they are always made beautiful. It reflects the uniqueness of each country," she says.

South Korea is also known as the capital of plastic surgery and the size of this industry is 10.7 billion dollars. In this context, virtual influencers can further promote unrealistic beauty standards.

But leaving behind these ideals, South Korean Tanneri started a movement against plastic surgery in 2018. But the definition and standards of beauty for women in the country are very narrow. This means that beauty in South Korea is usually a petite figure with big eyes, a small face and clear skin.

According to Lee Unhoon, virtual influencers like Lisa and Rosie can make the standards of beauty that have been demanded in Korea even more unattainable and can increase the demand for plastic surgery or cosmetic products among women who want to emulate them.

"Real women want to look like them and men want to date people who look like them," she says.

But the makers of Lucy and Rosie reject such criticism.

But such concerns are starting to go beyond Korean beauty standards. There is also a debate on the ethics of market production, where the consumers do not understand that they are not model people, and they also do not know that the creation of different races puts cultural tolerance at risk.

Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, which has more than 200 virtual influencers on its platform, accepts such a risk. Any technology and media has both good and bad qualities. "Issues of representation, cultural mixing and freedom of expression are already growing concerns," the company said in a blog post.

Meta is currently working with partners to develop a framework to guide virtual influencers to mitigate potential risks. But one thing is clear, the industry is here to stay. From metaverse to virtual world to virtual currency, as the digital world matures, virtual influencers can become a future platform for companies.

Lotte Company hopes to make more money by appearing in dramas and advertisements with its virtual influencers. The firm is also working on virtual human development, which it aims to develop in the 40s to 60s.

"We want to change the way people think about virtual humans," Beck said.

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