Hour One, the tech company that specializes in generating AI-driven synthetic character from real humans has raised close to $5 million in seed funding lead by Galaxy Interactive and Kindred Ventures, with the participation of Amaranthine.
In the past, Tech futurists have long warned about humans being replaced by life-like AI-driven figures, almost impossible to differentiate between humans and machines as shown in Hollywood movies such as Terminator. The possibility is now fast approaching towards becoming a reality.
The company, which was founded on Jan 1 2019 and is headquartered in Tel Aviv, Israel, is the world’s leading trusted provider of synthetic characters based on real-life. The funds will be used by the company for scaling its AI-driven cloud platform, onboard “thousands” of new characters, and further expansion of its other commercial activities.
The company develops cutting edge technologies for creating high-quality digital characters based on real people with a focus on generating production-grade video-based characters in a highly scalable and cost-effective way. The upshot of this is that what appears to be a real human could talk about any product or subject at all, to the point of infinite scale.
This was showcased at its “real or synthetic” likeness test at CES 2020, challenging people to distinguish between real and synthetic characters generated by its AI.
Founder and CEO Oren Aharon commented: “We believe that synthetic characters of real people will become a part of our everyday life. Our vision is that Hour One will drive the use of synthetic characters to improve the quality of communication between businesses and people across markets and use cases. By enabling each person to create their own character together with our scalable cloud platform, we will provide a variety of solutions for next-gen remote business-to-human interactions.”
Hour One is currently working with companies in the e-commerce, education, automotive, communication, and enterprise sectors, and is poised for vertical growth in other industrial applications in 2020. The company recently showcased its “real or synthetic” likeness test at CES 2020, challenging people to distinguish between real and synthetic characters generated by its AI.
The contentious issue is how to responsibly deploy this technology without it been abused in the era which is full of cyber crimes and fake identities.
Lior Hakim, co-founder, and CTO said that this potential problem is dealt with via encryption technologies to secure the use and rights of the characters enabling “anyone to identify our videos as well as mark them as altered to notify the viewers.” The company also says it has an ethical policy code for how its technology is used.
Sam Englebardt, co-founder and managing director of Galaxy Interactive, said that the startup’s “ethics-driven approach to the creation of synthetic video” is key and that “given how challenging production with live actors has become as a result of COVID-19, now is the perfect time for businesses of all sizes to produce their content with Hour One’s synthetic characters.”
This will reduce the cost of synthetic character creation, meaning any textual content could be “automatically translated into a live-action video of a person that engages an audience by speaking the text,” said Eze Vidra, co-founder and managing partner at Remagine Ventures.
Natalie Monbiot, the company’s business strategy expert has said that the company has a unique ability to onboard “basically any human being and turn them into a synthetic character that’s a lifelike replica of that person. So it’s not an avatar or a version of that person. It really does look and behave like that person. You can then basically generate new content by uploading new texts. So, for example, in e-commerce, you can pick your characters and get them to present your product or do a product presentation. This means every single product SKU can have its own video presentation.”