Listeners want to feel close to the musicians they support. And most would jump at the chance to talk with their favorite artist one-on-one. But famous people rarely have the time for that kind of meeting.
So what is the next best thing?
For Mark Tuan, whose new recording Fallin is out Friday, it was creating a digital avatar.
The Taiwanese-American entertainer from Los Angeles, California is a former member of the Korean group Got7. He partnered with Soul Machines to create a “digital twin” called “Digital Mark.”
In doing so, Tuan became the first famous person to attach their likeness to the artificial intelligence (AI) program OpenAI’s GPT. The technology permits fans to talk one-on-one with Tuan’s avatar.
“It’s very different. It’s not really me, but it is me,” he says of Digital Mark. “It’s a cool thing, that fans get to interact with him, too.”
Greg Cross is head of Soul Machines. He views Digital Mark as the future of fan interaction. Cross said we are only at the beginning of how this technology will change how fans interact with famous people and companies.
Tuan’s hope with Digital Mark is that as the technology progresses, so too will fans’ relationships with his AI twin. He also hopes that they will get to communicate with him in languages beyond English.
Getting Digital Mark to look like and act like the real Mark Tuan involved a lot of work. Tuan had to spend several days filming in a bodysuit to capture his movement. He made different faces so the Digital Mark could capture his emotions. And he spent a lot of time recording his voice as well.
Right now, Digital Mark just stands in one place. But Tuan says that maybe one day they will have Digital Mark walking around too.
The technology is in its early days. Tuan says Digital Mark has been talking about a musical event that does not exist. But he is hopeful to see how the avatar will progress.
Fans have already been using Digital Mark to interact with Tuan about event dates and new music.
As for concerns over how this kind of technology could be used in the future, Tuan is hopeful but has some concerns.
“I’ve seen a lot of movies where robots take over the world,” he jokes. “You never really know what’s going to happen, but I think it is really cool.”
I’m Gregory Stachel.
Maria Sherman reported this story for The Associated Press. Gregory Stachel adapted the story for VOA Learning English.
Words in This Story
digital – adj. using or characterized by computer technology
avatar – n. a picture of a person or an animal that represents a particular computer user, on a computer screen, especially in a computer game or on social media
twin – n. either one of two babies that are born at the same time to the same mother
cool – adj. very fashionable, stylish, or appealing in a way that is generally approved of especially by young people
interact – v. to talk or do things with other people
bodysuit – n. a piece of clothing that fits tightly and covers the body except for the legs and sometimes the arms