In the eighteenth episode of Creativity Squared, professional speaker, business communication expert, and soon-to-be Doctor Jill Schiefelbein joins us for an exciting dive into the fascinating realm of synthetic media, the pros and cons of digital likenesses, its potential to actually help us be more human, and more.
Jill is a leading researcher on these types of photo-realistic avatars and the Chief Experience Officer and a Partner at Render, a Creativity Squared partner and sponsor. Render is a start-up specializing in creating hyper-realistic avatars, including Helen’s recently unveiled new digital clone, Helen 2.ODD.
As an early tech adopter, Jill thrives at the intersections of communication, education, and technology.
A University faculty-turned-entrepreneur, she’s an award-winning business owner, author, and recovering academic. She taught at Arizona State University for 11 years, analyzed terrorist documents to provide counter-terrorism messaging strategies to the military, and was a pioneer in digital education.
Jill helps organizations navigate physical, digital, and technological communication spaces to attract customers, increase sales, and retain clients.
As of December 2023, she will have defended her doctoral dissertation, which is the first study of its kind that focuses on the effectiveness, engagement, and trust of hyper-realistic avatars – with both subjective and objective participant data.
What does the research data reveal?
In this episode, we got the first glimpse of her research findings here on Creativity Squared!
Jill also shared her thoughts on how avatars reach and resonate with viewers, as well as how she consults with businesses to understand, utilize, and leverage synthetic media through added personalization, customization, and choice.
We geeked out about the history of avatars, the synthetic media industry landscape and business use cases, and how this new medium is democratizing video creation.
Read on to discover more!
Jill began the discussion by sharing her early interest in online courses, dating back 20 years when she developed her first online course as part of an in-person class at Arizona State University.
At this time, online education was in its infancy. However, Jill recognized the power of the technology, and how it could democratize access to knowledge and break down barriers. She saw the opportunity to leverage online platforms to make education more accessible, leading to her involvement in higher education and the founding of ASU Online.
Her excitement for emerging technology-driven communications solutions, like Zoom, ultimately led Jill to synthetic media and hyper-realistic avatars. She noted that these avatars have the potential to humanize communication channels, providing personalized and customized experiences at various touchpoints along the customer journey — a new way of communicating that bridges the gap between text, audio, and video communication, enriching the interaction and engagement between individuals and brands.
The term “avatar,” Jill noted, may conjure up images of video games and virtual worlds, but its origins are deeper than that — the word has a historical lineage dating back to the representation of deities on Earth in ancient religious contexts.
Over the years, avatars have evolved from rudimentary pixelated forms to the incredibly lifelike representations we see today. Custom synthetic avatars take this evolution a step further by creating digital likenesses of individuals using advanced technology.
As Jill went on to explain, “hyper-realistic avatars” or “photo-realistic avatars” are essentially digital clones of individuals, capturing not only their visual presence but also their vocal patterns. The result is a lifelike avatar that can seamlessly communicate, mimicking the person’s expressions and voice.
The possibilities for such avatars are expansive.
The creative realm can leverage them for performative elements, enabling interactions that add a unique touch to presentations and speeches. In fields like medical and dental, hyper-realistic avatars are being explored to enhance patient experiences, provide personalized follow-up instructions, and build stronger patient-doctor relationships.
For content creators, the avatars provide an innovative way to enhance SEO. By converting podcast transcripts into brief video summaries, for instance, content can become more engaging and visible to search engines. It’s a strategy that adds a multimedia layer to existing content, boosting its reach.
Jill, however, emphasized that hyper-realistic avatars shouldn’t replace personalized communication.
They thrive in scenarios where video wasn’t previously being used extensively, such as certain stages of the customer experience, but the key is to find the sweet spot where avatars can augment communication without detracting from authenticity.
Addressing concerns about the uncanny valley – that eerie feeling when something isn’t quite right – Jill pointed out that the goal isn’t to deceive, but to enhance communication and engagement.
Transparency is key, and distinguishing between the human and digital likeness is a crucial part of introducing avatars. Educating viewers and users about the technology’s capabilities can bridge this gap and foster a greater understanding of the potential of synthetic media.
The conversation shifted as Jill shared several key insights were shared about synthetic media, digital likeness, and the evolving landscape of communication.
One significant point she made concerned the impending challenges in the legal and regulatory space due to the intricate nature of this technology and the lack of understanding among those who formulate rules and laws.
This phenomenon is not new; it’s reminiscent of past cases like Ted Stevens’ “series of tubes” analogy for the internet, revealing the struggle when technology and policy intersect.
Jill explained that when introducing custom synthetic avatars, it’s important to grant clients the autonomy to choose whether to incorporate them.
Owning one’s digital likeness is a pivotal factor. Jill underscored the scientific basis behind the trustworthiness of delivering messages through an avatar, highlighting the correlation between a video’s originator and the trust in its content.
The discussion touched on the distinction between deep fakes and synthetic media. Jill explained that deep fakes manipulate existing content, while synthetic media combines AI-generated elements to produce entirely new content. She reinforced the idea that owning your digital likeness empowers individuals to control and safeguard their content. This aligns with the current trend of celebrities, athletes, and more advocating for agency over their likeness in the digital realm.
Jill also delved into the broader landscape of synthetic media, highlighting the rapid growth of the industry and citing a massive study estimating the digital human avatar market’s value. She acknowledged the industry’s expansion into various domains, from customer service to coaching, with a focus on personalization, customization, and choice.
This democratization of access to digital likeness technology, Jill suggested, brings enhanced engagement and efficiency, ultimately reshaping communication across industries.
As the conversation continued, Jill discussed the licensing aspect of using Render’s avatar technology.
She explained that the avatars created using Render are entirely owned by the users. Users have the right to download and use all the generated content, and Render retains no rights to the avatars. The application process also ensures that avatars are not used for malicious purposes or fake news dissemination.
Jill stressed that Render’s approach is to adapt and incorporate the best technology available at any given time, ensuring the highest quality and performance for users. She also hinted at the research conducted, showcasing how the improvements in avatar technology between different versions were reflected in the research results.
After sharing further details about the future of Render’s evolving technology, Jill discussed the intriguing findings of her research analyzing the impact of avatar videos on viewers.
She also highlighted the importance of context in viewer perception.
Furthermore, her research explored retention rates of information presented by avatars. Her results suggested that avatars were effective in conveying information to viewers without significant differences in comprehension.
These findings could have major implications, particularly in business and education. Avatars could potentially replace the need for extensive video production, offering a cost-effective and efficient way to deliver information.
What’s more, Jill’s research is poised to extend beyond the initial findings. She intends to explore the performance of avatars in delivering emotional messages compared to informational content. This investigation could provide valuable insights into leveraging avatars for persuasive communication.
Jill expressed her infectious excitement about these possibilities and reiterated that this study marked the first of its kind to focus solely on the efficacy of avatars without supplementary content.
Jill’s advice to businesses considering avatars is to avoid the “spaghetti thrower” approach.
She emphasizes the importance of strategic integration, where businesses identify specific touchpoints where avatars can enhance the customer experience. By aligning avatars with clear objectives, companies can harness their potential effectively and avoid scattering resources aimlessly.
Jill’s research lays the groundwork for a future where avatars play a pivotal role in communication strategies.
As the technology advances, more questions arise, such as the impact of emotion in vocal delivery and the use of avatars in different contexts. Her ongoing research aims to address these questions and explore the full spectrum of possibilities that avatars offer.
Jill Schiefelbein’s infectious enthusiasm for the potential of digital avatars is truly captivating. Her passion for exploring the myriad possibilities of this technology radiates through her words and insights, and her genuine belief in the transformative power of these avatars to enhance communication and learning is a driving force that encourages others to share in her vision of a more efficient and engaging future.
If you want your own custom synthetic avatar, Creativity Squared is collaborating with Render to bring their Avatar Experience to Cincinnati, OH, on October 25 and 26, so you can digitally clone yourself too.
If you’re interested in learning more, sign up for the Creativity Squared free weekly newsletter at CreativitySquared.com where all event details will be shared.
Thank you, Jill, for being our guest on Creativity Squared.
This show is produced and made possible by the team at PLAY Audio Agency: https://playaudioagency.com.
Creativity Squared is brought to you by Sociality Squared, a social media agency who understands the magic of bringing people together around what they value and love: http://socialitysquared.com.
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Jill Schiefelbein: I got into the synthetic media thing, believed, and again, the intersections of communication, education, technology, democratization, access, adding another layer of humanity through technology, again, I’m not saying take it away from already doing video. I’m saying add it now to your emails, add it now to text to bring it alive more.
And I threw 10 months of research out the window and started over. So my dissertation, and I’m in the final stages now, I have some preliminary data that I’m really excited to share with all of you today, is really all focused on how engaging our avatar videos, informational videos, how trusted are these videos How well are people learning with these videos?
Helen Todd: Jill Schiefelbein soon to-be Dr. Jill Schiefelbein is the Chief Experience Officer and a partner at Render, a Creativity Squared partner and sponsor that’s a startup specializing in creating hyperrealistic avatars, including mine. Jill is also a leading researcher on these types of photorealistic avatars.
She’s an early tech adopter and thrives at the intersections of communication, education, and technology. As a university faculty turned entrepreneur, she’s an award-winning business owner, author, and recovering academic. She taught at Arizona State University for 11 years, analyzed terrorist documents to provide counter-terrorism messaging strategies to the military, and was a pioneer in digital education.
Jill helps organizations navigate physical, digital, and technological communication spaces to attract customers, increase sales and retain clients. As of December 2023, Jill will have defended her doctoral dissertation, which is the first study of its kind that focuses on the effectiveness, engagement, and trust of hyperrealistic avatars with both subjective and objective participant data.
What does the research data reveal? Today, you’re getting the first glimpse of her research findings here on Creativity Squared if you want your own custom synthetic avatar. We’re collaborating with Render to bring their avatar experience to Cincinnati, Ohio on October 25th and 26th, so you can digitally clone yourself too.
If you’re interested in learning more, sign up for the Creativity Squared free weekly email@example.com where all event details will be shared. In this episode, you’ll not only discover how avatars reach and resonate with viewers, but also how Jill consults businesses to understand, utilize, and leverage synthetic media through added personalization, customization, and choice.
Geek out with us about the history of avatars, the synthetic media landscape, and business use cases, and how this new medium is democratizing video creation and helping us to become more human. Enjoy.
Theme: But have you ever thought, what if this is all just a dream?
Helen Todd: Welcome to Creativity Squared. Discover how creatives are collaborating with artificial intelligence in your inbox, on YouTube, and on your preferred podcast platform. Hi, I’m Helen Todd, your host, and I’m so excited to have you join the weekly conversations I’m having with amazing pioneers in this space.
The intention of these conversations is to ignite our collective imagination at the intersection of AI and creativity to envision a world where artists thrive.
Theme: Just, just a dream.
Helen Todd: Jill, welcome to Creativity Squared. It is so wonderful to have you on the podcast today.
Jill Schiefelbein: Thanks so much for having me, Helen. I’m so excited for this conversation.
Helen Todd: Yeah, likewise. And for our listeners who have tuned in, we’ve kind of been teasing about this interview ’cause we had the CEO of Render already on the podcast.
Render is a sponsor and partner of Creativity Squared and generated my custom synthetic avatar, which is introduced and out in the world. And Jill is the Chief Experience Officer at Render. So, so excited to have you on the podcast today, and especially to talk about the research that you’ve been doing.
So again, just welcome to Creativity Squared.
Jill Schiefelbein: Thanks.
Helen Todd: So why don’t we dive in? Cause I think one thing that’s really interesting about you in addition to your research is just kind of you’ve been a very early adopter to online video and media. So why don’t we start with kind of your origin story and how you got to be where you’re at right now with Render.
Jill Schiefelbein: You know, it’s really funny ’cause actually I was looking this up before the interview and it was 20 years ago this month that I actually started developing my first online course in the higher education session at Arizona State University, and it was for the online course component of an in-person course because if you remember back in 2003, most distance learning was correspondence courses still where people were sitting in a classroom, but in a remote location, maybe getting something streamed in.
And for me it got very exciting because I was majoring in communication. I was about to go into grad school for business communication, and I saw the world through that lens, but I also picked up on technology faster than the average non-techie person did.
So I started seeing very early the potential for distance learning for online learning at that point in time, to have real power for how people are able to access information, kind of democratizing the process of education right now with online education if it got, you know, more and more widespread.
Geographic constraints weren’t a thing. You’re a single parent and you have to work during the day, but need to take your classes at night. Okay, now, not a problem. You have, you know, a physical impairment of some way, shape, or form that makes traveling onto a campus difficult. Great. Or let’s be honest, financially, school’s already expensive enough.
Getting into campus, getting parking, doing all the things, or public transit not being accessible. All of these reasons to, in my opinion, democratize education a little more, make it more accessible.
And the linchpin of, to me, almost any successful endeavor is how well the communication flows within that endeavor. And that became my passion, is helping people understand how to communicate effectively using technology. And that first manifested as teaching, and I was faculty at Arizona State University for a decade in business communication, built up their biggest online education offices at that point in time, was on a board that helped found and create ASU Online, which is now one of the largest, if not the largest online public university in the country and played around with all of this.
It was really fascinating. And then I left the academic space and started my own business about 10 years ago from today too. And really didn’t get excited again until about 2015, 2016, where this technology that really, until the pandemic no one knew about, called Zoom was a thing. And so I was very early adopter with that technology. started using it and actually trying to get my clients to use it with me.
Very, very early on they were all like, ah, I don’t, I don’t ever see this being a thing. I don’t ever see this working. And well, we know what happened then. So for me it was again, now we have this video communicative capability like, you know, we’re doing now even for this podcast.
And we now can see more communication cues. We can see more media richness in that. We can have more rapid transfer of information and more effectiveness, which again, lowered barriers to people being able to collaborate and do business together.
For me, synthetic media and these, you know, I like to call them hyper-realistic avatars, right, because I can get into the whole genesis of the word avatar, how it was created and all of that. But the idea is that now we can democratize the video production process so that people can add their likeness to forms of communication, where otherwise they may have only been doing texts or maybe only been doing audio, or maybe only been doing a still image.
And so you get to form different levels and depths of communicative relationships with people at different stages of them interacting with you, wherever that may be in your business.
Helen Todd: I love that. And 20 years ago, I mean, I love how much you had the foresight to see where online education could go and is going right now.
So, how did you get connected to Render? I don’t know if I’ve actually heard that story yet.
Jill Schiefelbein: Oh, oh, it’s a fun story. So, Jon, who you had on the show, our CEO, my business partner and I met in 2015. We were both living in New York City at the time. He was running an LMS learning management system called Knowledgelink and Moki, our CPO and the third partner in the business actually was working with Jon then as well.
And I ended up going in and doing some consulting with them and then some consulting with some of their clients on effective online education, curriculum development, that type of thing, because they didn’t have an in-house curriculum person at that time. And so they outsourced it with my company and we got to collaborating and seeing how we all saw the same space in overlappingly similar, but then also some different ways. And those differences strengthened all of it.
And so when I saw Jon again in 2021, I mean I saw him many times, but 2021, he had sold Knowledgelink. And I’m like, what on earth are you into right now? And he showed me and I’m like, all right, I’m on board. Let’s play. And so I became one of the first paying customers of the company about two years ago.
And from there was the person who was using their, you know, custom avatar. The most effectively was getting use cases, which again makes sense ’cause it’s a communication tool. And this is my passion, this is my background. And one thing led to another and we did a lot of collaborations and it turned out that it was just the right fit.
So that’s how I got on board with Render. And my whole lens is helping our clients communicate strategically using this channel.
Helen Todd: I love that. I didn’t realize that you were a customer before becoming a partner, and all the use cases. Well, and I think one thing that you hinted at and you’ve said before is that this technology allows us to be more human. And I was wondering if you could kind of expand on that.
Cause when I’ve shared with people my avatar and even a guy locally in Cincinnati came up to me at the supermarket the other day. It was like, Helen, that was so wild. Like it scares me that you won’t be able to tell that what’s real from what’s not real.
So, you know, a lot of people have really strong reactions about it being synthetic and not real. But your take is that it actually can allow us to be more human. So I’d love for you to kind of expand on what you mean by that.
Jill Schiefelbein: Yeah, and there’s so much, and I know we’ll go down my research rabbit hole in a little bit that will also tie back to this.
But when we look at, let’s just say, I mean, it can be in any business, but any business, whether it’s, you know, a creative business like many people listening to this have or any type of endeavor, you have what’s called a customer experience lifecycle. And short for CX and in everyone’s CX you have multiple potential client and client touchpoints.
And these are all communicative touchpoints. And you use specific channels to communicate at each of these touchpoints. Simple, very, very simple example, you order something online through any online retailer, what within seconds do you typically get an email? Sometimes with a pretty boring receipt most of the time with a pretty boring receipt.
Something like, thank you for your order. Or something very simple that just confirms that you had this, well, that’s status quo. That’s normative communication at this point. If you don’t get it, you do get worried as you should, right? Did my order go through, I don’t know. Let’s find this out.
But what if, then you could use that simple instance, this one touchpoint where text via email or text via a mobile device, even in some cases, is your communication channel.
And now raise the bar on that communication channel to provide one that’s a more rich experience for your customer by now having a customized and personalized video being generated and delivered. So, “hi Helen. I saw you just ordered the X, Y, Z product. We hope you’re really happy with it. It’s set to arrive in ‘Insert your shipping time here.’”
In the meantime, many of our customers have found, you know, this video tutorial very helpful in learning how to use the product before it arrives. I’ve made sure to link it below. Thanks for becoming part of the, you know, whatever brand family.
When you can automate something like that and add a digital likeness and representation of someone to it, that changes the communicative landscape. And now I am not saying that in your customer receipts is the perfect place to use this technology for all businesses. And that’s why I look at an entire structure of a CX when I am working with any of our clients.
But it’s really figuring out where can you humanize and make more unique and make more personal the experience? Because studies across all areas of retention and loyalty will show that personalization, customization, and choice are three tenets that will keep people on average, more loyal, more referral based, and more engaged with you and your brand than other things.
Now we can do that at scale with the help of leveraging synthetic media.
Helen Todd: Thank you. And maybe just for people who haven’t heard the episode with Jon or my episode introducing my custom synthetic avatar, maybe we could just take one step back and make sure everyone understands.
Jill Schiefelbein: Apologies. I get so excited.
Helen Todd: Well, me too. So maybe just for people who are tuning into this episode as their first introduction to synthetic media, maybe we should take one step back and just kind of set the stage of what is synthetic media, custom synthetic avatars and what Render does, and then we’ll jump off from there.
Jill Schiefelbein: Yeah, very good point. I get so excited about this. Just diving right in. So when you are looking at the word avatar, I’m gonna geek out with all of you for a little bit, but you know, originally the original term derives from about sixth century in the modern era. In a religious context where it’s like the representation of a deity on earth.
And then it became, you know, more widely spread to some type of, any representation of another embodiment of someone on earth. And it wasn’t until actually the 1980s where it was actually popularized from a computer standpoint, which makes sense cause that’s when computing was coming in.
So then it talked about the digital manifestations of someone and they chose to use the word avatar to represent that. And so when you look at how avatars have evolved, I mean, we’re starting with like this 8-bit super pixelated thing. you know, we had in the eighties going around and then, you know, way fast forward to something like Second Life that started in 2003, where you had avatars that you could actually start to customize a little more.
Very interesting. So many studies as avatars became more customized, the more you can customize your avatar or your experience with the avatar, it led to more gameplay. It led to higher retention of learning and learning studies. So again, customization a key thing here.
And now we’ve morphed it so that if you’re playing a video game, if you look at, you know, sports video games or Call of Duty or any of those that represent real humans in the video game world, you see how realistic they are becoming.
You still have a little cartoon likeness to it, but they’re becoming more and more realistic up to the point where you kind of get what’s called the uncanny valley. It’s just this feeling that, you know, the word basically describes what our brain’s doing and telling us when something’s just not quite right and it can’t really grab onto what it is.
Well now hyperrealistic avatars, as I define them for my research, Synthesia, one of our, you know, partners that we play in the tech playground with calls them photorealistic avatars. You call them custom synthetic avatars. I mean, people have different names, but basically this is a digital likeness of you.
We clone your video presence, we clone your vocal presence. We run them through two separate best of class engines for each of those. So we are very much engine agnostic. Whatever is best for our clients, we are able to integrate into the application. So it’s kind of like a one stop thing. Once you have that, you go into your RenderMe app.
And through that you select your avatar. Some people have more than one. I have three. You know, I get a little crazy with it. Then you do your script and maybe you have a script you wanna copy and paste it. Maybe you wanna upload existing audio that you have, you know, like a podcast clip and you just wanna pair it with your video clone. Fabulous.
Or maybe you want to use GPT to help you. Well, instead of going outside the app, you can use our AI sidekick right in the application, translate in six different languages other than English your, you know, your digital likeness can now speak including English, seven different languages with pretty much the snap of a finger and sound fluent.
So this, as you can, you know, just sell by that, it enables such a range of communicative possibilities that didn’t exist before. And you don’t have to set up the perfect camera or pay thousands of dollars for a studio or do hair and makeup every day or anything like that. It’s rapid content creation when you need it, and when you need to personalize and customize things for your clients.
And that’s really what Render is all about, being a one-stop shop for all of those digital likeness solutions.
Helen Todd: Yeah. Thank you for explaining that. Yeah. And I’m so excited to be a partner and customer and, and have my avatar through Render. And I actually, I think you’re up to eight languages. ‘Cause I had to update all the text when I was promoting Helen 2.ODD on the languages.
But also for people who, and I’ll link to the other episodes, what are some of the different use cases? You kind of hinted at education and online course and marketing for user touchpoints, but what are the different use cases that you’re seeing with your customers?
Jill Schiefelbein: You know, one, one of my favorites that always gets a laugh when I’m on stage is I actually use mine as a creative piece when I’m doing a speech on stage, depending on the audience, not all the time, but you know, being able to have a conversation with yourself in front of other people.
It’s like, I am meta-processing my, you know, interpersonal communication, which, my therapist may have a lot to say about that, but it goes over well when you’re on a stage, right? Like it’s a fun thing. So you can think of, you know, there’s so many creative people listening in on this, even just from that performative element, right?
You can, you know, have a lot to play around with there, but that’s more of the extreme, right? I think what a lot of people are using it for, we are working now in medical and in dental where we’re looking at enhancing the patient experience. We know from persuasive studies, from studies on follow-up care and everything like that, that frequent communication and certain touchpoints, again, help improve the likelihood of a patient following up.
Like I am not in my formal study yet, because once I get my doctorate, I can dive down that route, which will be in a few months, but I can’t wait to get integrated with a medical system on a longevity study to really show that over time when we have a video of a doctor telling someone their follow-up instructions via a video on text message, that there is more likelihood that they return for appointments, that they don’t have follow-up problems, that type of thing.
Now I, you know, that’s my hypothesis. I don’t know. But based on other studies with other forms of communication, that’s the case. And if we can move that needle even further, I mean that’s a major societal impact.
You have being able to take what content you already have. And I think creatives are amazing at this ’cause you have blocks and blocks of content. I’m using blocks ’cause it could be a book, it could be a page, it could be a media asset, you know, whatever it is. But these blocks of content, and with those, you can now leverage synthetic media to get even more visibility on them.
So for example, you can easily take a podcast, you can upload the podcast transcript into GPT iteration into our AI sidekick. You can ask it to give you a 100 word summary of the podcast, and all of a sudden, on every podcast page, now you have a separate video that you didn’t have to do hardly anything for that explains it.
And we know that for search engine optimization purposes, multimedia does get crawled by the bots that are looking at all the texts. So now you have a more likelihood of increasing that visibility of that page. So I’m doing it with my website. Every article that I ever wrote for Entrepreneur Magazine, 2015, 16, 17, 18, did a lot of writing with them, all of those articles, my assistant right now is getting the summaries, creating ’em with digital Jill, and then putting them on the website.
So I’m getting another SEO Boost on my website for a lot of different things. So for creatives, right away, it’s, look at the assets, the blocks, the things that you’ve already done, where are they shared, advertised, promoted, and how can you now add another level of multimedia explaining what this is on top of it?
And so that’s a very simple use case right away. You know, training, education, micro-learning, when you need to pop content in and out real quick. If you are really talented at video editing, it is amazing how well an avatar can perform in a video.
If you have good B-roll, if you have good editing, if you have good text, all of those things, it’s pretty insane. And with all of these, I always tell people this is not to be used where you’re already doing video in your business. You’re not gonna, you know, if I’m making very personalized, heartfelt videos for my clients, I’m not all of a sudden gonna switch out an avatar for that. That does not make sense.
However, if I’m not doing any video whatsoever for my clients in, you know, the third stage of my customer experience, now I can add this in with minimal work and a high return. That to me, adds a lot of value.
Helen Todd: I couldn’t agree more. And I always joke, you know, I, not really excited to create TikTok videos and if my avatar can do it for me, I already love her, quote unquote love her, for that reason.
So how do people introduce their avatars? Because it is their likeness and some people, you know, it, in introducing mine, I think one of my favorite things so far has been just seeing the wide range of reactions of people like, oh, that’s so cool. I want one, like the uncanny valley. That’s freaky.
So that’s scary. But I, you know, super transparent that this is not me. I’m not trying to fake people out that this is me versus the human Helen. And I know there’s been some journalists that have kind of done that just for their articles and clickbait-y links and stuff.
But how do you work with clients to introduce their avatars and distinguish, you know, the human from their digital likeness?
Jill Schiefelbein: You know, this is a topic that there is gonna be a lot of catching up in the legal space on, right? It’s, you know, especially, you know, political laws and everything that are gonna be put in place because people, the people making the rules really don’t understand the technology first and foremost, which is a problem with a lot of things.
I mean, we can think back to Ted Stevens and, “the internet is a series of tubes.”You know, you’re in a field of expertise and politics are in legal and not technology. And so we’re trying to govern these things, but I think it’s a little crazy.
So for me, number one, I leave it up to the client if they want to introduce. If they do, I give them multiple options of things that I’ve seen be successful. You know, Helen, yours is one of them now in our arsenal. And I also tell them, here’s some pros for it and here’s some cons for it. And this is really up to you because at the end of the day, it is your likeness.
And here’s how I look at it from, Like a scientific, theoretical, communicative standpoint. When you send an email, there is no guarantee that you actually wrote that email yet we trust it. So how is delivering something with your likeness in effect, any different?
In fact, it’s kind of even more validated that those words are yours because your embodiment is paired with them. So when you look at the different channels we have and the guarantees or certainties that it actually originated with a person, for me, digital likeness is, it’s even more of a, well, this is really representing you, so you even need to be more cautious in what you know, who you have allowed access to your digital likeness, which we lock down securely in our app. You have to go through multi-levels of authentication if you even want to allow someone else to access your avatar in any way, shape, or form.
So I, number one, let them choose. But for me, I always introduce it in the context. I didn’t do a big unveiling when I did my avatar whatsoever.
I would just incipiently put it in different places. And I choose because my profession, in addition to being a business partner, and CXO at Render, I have a communication strategy company that I’ve had for about, you know, over a decade. And I am on big stages. I speak and I don’t want potential clients seeing an avatar video of me and thinking, she’s not that dynamic. Why are she called the dynamic communicator? That would make no sense.
So it is in my best business interest to be very transparent about it. So I do a couple of different things. On my short form videos that I’m using for my website, I actually have a background that in the background it says “Digital likeness of author Jill Schiefelbein.” So it just says it right away.
In a lot of videos, I like to be creative with it where it comes in the script. So before, if I have a potential client call, you know, a client I’m trying to cultivate for a big gig, let’s say their name is Helen, just because I like real life examples, be like, Jill is so, or you know, I’m so excited to meet with you next week, Helen.
Well actually not me, but the real Jill. I am her avatar and while she’s out researching how she can be the best guest on your podcast next week, she wanted to send this message to remind you that, you know, you need to follow up on X, Y, Z beforehand, whatever it is.
And so I always incorporate it in what is very fascinating though. And is it okay to dive into a little bit of my research without context, just a little bit?
Helen Todd: Oh, absolutely. Dive in.
Jill Schiefelbein: Just a little bit and we can re, we can rewind and give it some context in a minute because I know this is kind of a semi-jump here. But when it comes to engagement and trust levels, self-reported, self-reported, so subjective engagement and trust levels of a real Jill video, an avatar Jill video or avatar video of Jill that says at the onset that it’s an avatar, people were more engaged and trusted more of all three, the avatar video that disclosed it was an avatar.
Now the statistical significance, not really there, right? So basically there was really not a whole whole lot of difference between real Jill and Jill that says she’s an avatar, but the Jill that is an avatar and doesn’t disclose it, had a little bit of a knock.
Not huge, not what I expected. I expected to see much bigger of a difference, but communicating that upfront does communicate trust right away.
Helen Todd: Yeah, that doesn’t surprise me at all. That that would be my hypothesis going into it. And since you kind of mentioned it, of, you know, owning your digital likeness, and oftentimes soon as you bring up this synthetic media, often deepfakes come into the picture.
And I think it’s worth kind of explaining, especially for people who haven’t listened to the other episodes
Jill Schiefelbein: Yeah
Helen Todd: difference between owning your likeness and deepfakes. ’cause I know that those get, you know, a lot of publicity and, and the press right now too.
Jill Schiefelbein: They do. So let me explain it In the, I call it the most simplified way of explaining it, and this is not 100% accurate for every label, but a deepfake is a type of synthetic media that is created using an existing video source and then manipulating that video source. So think about Photoshop. It takes an original photo, but then it manipulates things, right?
So Photoshop was kind of the original deepfake, if you really think about it that way. But they’re typically referred to in terms of video. So it’s taking an existing video like deepfake Tom Cruise, who’s on TikTok. The guy has a similar body stature to Tom Cruise, gets video of his own body and then manipulates Tom Cruise’s face and voice over it.
And so you have a real input. And then you are editing that basically. You are changing things out. You’re Photoshopping that video out.
Synthetic media is actually blending to create something that never existed before. So it’s taking an AI instance of your video, an AI instance of your voice, and then with user input on the script blends and merges them to create a synthetic media output, a piece of output that never existed before.
And so when you own your likeness from a synthetic media standpoint, does that mean you can’t be deepfaked? Of course not. Anyone who has a single picture or a single recording of their voice anywhere on the internet can be deepfaked. And that may scare some people. But it’s the reality. It’s the same thing that anything you ever post online, anything can be found.
So if you have a presence out there, you can be deepfaked. But owning your digital likeness gives you agency over that. And that’s how and why I communicate, “This is my digital likeness. I approve the messaging in this video,” you know, type of thing when it goes out.
And I think it’s really important because you’ll see a lot of actors and actresses, voice stars, that type of thing, we’re starting to talk to athletes about this for their digital NIL – name, image, and likeness. And so it’s really, How do you get this created? How do you own it? How do you lock it down in a secure environment and how do you make sure what’s being communicated with it is something that you approve?
And there’s many different ways that you could go about doing that. The one thing I love about us is, it’s in one application. We have visibility on everything that goes through, every login that’s in there, and you and only you, the authorized user who has had to then video and audio authenticate within the application before even allowing anyone else to touch your assets gets to then approve someone to come in. And you can take that away at any time.
So it’s really locking down and protecting your own IP and then making sure whatever digital representation of you that’s showing up out there is something that you are okay with. You believe it represents your likeness.
Helen Todd: And just to punctuate that point, you said it, but deepfakes are done without your consent and kind of ripped off your likeness, whereas owning your digital likeness through companies like Render, you own all of the content and your likeness.
So I think that’s one really big distinguishing factor. And before we jump into your research, what’s just the snapshot of synthetic media as an industry? Because within the AI world, it’s very specific within the AI landscape, but a very emerging industry, I guess you could say.
So could you give us kind of a glimpse at the overall synthetic media landscape within the larger AI landscape?
Jill Schiefelbein: Yeah, I mean when you are looking at synthetic media as a whole, you’re talking about any media that is kind of produced with some human inputs. And this is the thing with all of this, this stuff is not self-generating.
Like you have human inputs that created it. And even if it’s something that auto runs, it’s because there was a human input program designed to auto run something, right? So no robots are not taking over the world, you know, the Terminator is not here. We are fine. Like we’re good.
But when you’re looking at these things, it’s really any type of media. And media can be a broad definition, right? But think of images that are generated. Think of videos that are generated. Think of how we are using technology to leverage and expand and make more efficient, in some cases, production of different forms of media. And the landscape is rapidly growing, where there are demonstrated business use cases.
So for example, within the synthetic media space, you look at avatars, right? Digital human avatars. There’s a massive study done on this by Emergen Research, and in that they estimate that the digital human avatar market now in, well, 2022, it was published in 2023, but 2022 was about 29 billion. Okay, decent size for as new as this is.
Helen Todd: Yeah, pretty impressive. Yep.
Jill Schiefelbein: Now let’s fast forward and it’s over 10x that 10 years from now.
Helen Todd: Wow.
Jill Schiefelbein: Well over, I think it’s closer to 20x. And when you look at something like that, Where did they get this data? This is a question I always ask. So it’s going in there and looking at it and then seeing all the different applications.
Okay, well, we want, people want help in so many different fields. Customer service, usage, tech, you know, learning different apps, getting banking help, all the assistance, chat chatbots. How fast did those spread relative to other forms of customer service prior to those? And now we’re now instigating things where we have video chatbots, right?
Digital human assistants that come on in some instances. You get to pick the likeness. Again, customize the agent that is helping you or pick the avatar of the agent that is helping you.
We’re working right now with people who want to custom program a GPT with their information only, keep it private and locked down and use their likeness as a video bot that will then coach clients.
Like, this type of thing is out there. It’s happening right now. And from my perspective, there are companies that are working on making it more and more human-like and more and more personalized. Again, customized with that. And that’s, you know, obviously the things that we’re doing.
But if you think of how many businesses already have some type of automatic chatbot, that market, now extrapolate that with digital human avatars, just that alone, you can see why the valuation will grow. But when you have a base use case, then it goes into training, which it’s already been used for from stock avatars, and you get more and more data that shows different things you can tweak within your stock avatars.
For example, I’ll go back to it again. Giving your viewers choice over which avatar teaches them shows to have an impact on learning. When the consumer of the information has their own avatar, and I’m not talking avatars like you and I have Helen, but even cartoon avatars where they get to personalize them with hats and clothing and you know, different pixelated things, they will be more engaged in the process.
So we’re looking at all of these uses of synthetic media that can be used to make a more rich, again, back to human, human experience where people have, my three words again, personalization, customization, and choice in how they’re navigating through whatever business landscape you have.
Helen Todd: Yeah. That’s amazing. And so exciting that it’s just set to explode.
Jill Schiefelbein: Yeah.
Helen Todd: And someone, after I released the episode last week that introduced my custom avatar, sent me a link to a Deepak Chopra. He’s got a custom avatar that’s more like a video chatbot, like you’re, like, you kind of hinted at where people could interact with it and it’s responsive with the answers.
So I know that there’s already some examples of that out in the wild, and I’m sure we’ll just see so many more too.
Jill Schiefelbein: Yeah, it’s amazing. And we have, you know, when it comes to creating a custom avatar like we do, if you have a ton of money, you can get one that has more 3-D motion and stuff like that.
But we’re talking about tens of thousands, if not a hundred thousand plus dollars to get those, you know, where they’re putting the sensors on you and able to replace you in videos and things like that. That’s great, that technology’s actually been around for a hot minute. I’m talking about then with what we are doing, the average small business owner can’t afford this.
And so if you are able to democratize that type of access to, again, having a different digital human representation of yourself at different parts of your business process, you’re now able to compete and play at a different level. You’re able to give experiences at a different level. And it all comes back to that, that access and democratization and humanness is really what gets me going
Helen Todd: From a cost standpoint, I mean, the ability to make video with just a couple clicks I think is just a massive cost savings. Even if you are not going on video with your iPhone, which is, you know, very low cost, but the time that it creates video is another, you know, opportunity cost.
So to be able to optimize that, I just see the benefit of using tools like Render so much just to streamline video creation on that side of things.
Jill Schiefelbein: You’re looking at a cost of like 10 bucks a video is what it comes down to: 10 bucks. And now of course if you expand it and are buying, you know, doing personalization of videos at scale, it goes much lower, right? But at this, like you are looking at like a max cost, max 10 bucks a video.
Now most people, now there are some people that are phenomenal on video, right? They can put this up and in one take, get exactly what they want and then put it down. And so maybe it’s a one minute video. So it took one minute at a time, maybe one minute to set up, okay? So it took you two minutes and you know, then you are uploading it to a landing page or doing all of that, right? So maybe you’ve spent five to 10 minutes getting this video on a landing page to be sent out.
Listen, if that’s you and you could do that for every video and you have the time to do it, then great. You’re probably already doing it. This is not worth it for you. But if you’re thinking, I need to do 10 of these one minute videos to 10 potential clients, and that is now we’re looking at 100 plus minutes, whereas wait, I can have my custom avatar do this, put these scripts in, that takes, let’s just say a minute a piece – it doesn’t, but let’s just say it takes a minute a piece for each of these.
Oh, and then when it’s delivered, it comes with its own landing page. So you’re not doing anything else. Now you’re looking at a 10% usage of total time. That’s a reduction of an hour and a half of your time. That’s where the game change comes in.
Helen Todd: Yeah, that’s amazing. And can you also explain, kind of the licensing aspect of it? Because working with Render, the pricing includes the production of your avatar to generate it, which is what you mentioned of capturing your video likeness, or video presence, cloning your video presence and cloning your voice.
And then there’s a licensing and then a monthly software fee. And, in terms of the licensing, you have multiple generations of avatars, which I find so fascinating. And since you were like one of the very first customers of Render, like how have your avatars kind of changed over time, and what’s your experience been with that? So I’d love for you to kind of expand on that a bit more.
Jill Schiefelbein: Now this is a huge question and I am again going to selfishly tie in a little bit of my research into it ’cause it does impact this. And then I promise we’re gonna get to like the full spectrum of this cause I’m geeked on it.
Helen Todd: Yes
Jill Schiefelbein: But when, when we’re looking at the evolution and why we do our pricing the way we did, like there’s a production fee, which you would assume there is. Like we have to produce your video and vocal likeness, but that’s a one-time thing. Once that’s done, it’s done.
We then have, I’m gonna skip to the subscription, which is actually how you access the app to get all your assets, have the translation, multiple languages, choose your background, upload a background, upload a voice, do whatever you wanna do with your digital likeness, right?
It is locked down, dual factor authentication, authorized user platform, video vocal authenticated, all the things, that’s, you know, starts at $200 a month. Again, you’re getting about 10 bucks a video, right? If you start at the base plan and then you know, like every subscription, the more you do, the better it gets in terms of your cost effectiveness, so no surprise there.
But anything you generate, whether you are a subscriber for a month or 10 years, everything you generate is yours. It is your IP. You have access to download every single piece of it. It is not ours whatsoever. We retain no rights to it. It is very intentional.
We make everyone go through an application process where all of this is explained and you also have to certify that you’re not gonna use your digital likeness, and this is some people, you know, can be like, wait, can’t I do anything I want with it?
No, we don’t, if people are gonna use it for nefarious reasons, for fake news or anything like that, like it’s in our contract in terms of service, that you cannot do that with your digital likeness on our platform. So we try to make that as secure as possible. So that’s what you’re paying the monthly thing for.
The annual licensing and this is what some people are having a tough time grasping because, okay, so I have to pay a thousand dollars a year per avatar. Yes, because what we do is we source whatever the best in class is. Period. End of story. So best in class video clone, best in class vocal clone.
And you know what? Not one company has it all in one stop shop like we do. That is best of the best. And that was something that was really important to me as I came on board. I mean, it was always important to Moki and Jon, like this was their vision from the beginning. And I’m like, I didn’t get it right away.
As someone who’s not in the programming element of the space, I didn’t get it. I’m like, why wouldn’t we just make it easier on ourselves to do this? And they said, well, we anticipate, and they were smart on this, you know, that there’s gonna be multiple ways to achieve the same goal. And we want to be able to be nimble enough to pick the best ways for people. And that’s what happened.
So my first version used only one vendor. My second version used two different vendors. Massive difference in quality between version one and version two. In addition, my version one had this weird like twitch in my neck. That really was kind of funny. The third version though, however, and where we’re at now, we not only had two providers, we actually replaced what was best in class audio with a new best in class audio.
And this is so important because that licensing fee, we have to pay licenses to whoever we’re using. We don’t want you to have to pay a license to five different people if over the course of your year we find better things. So it’s looped in one. We take care of sourcing it, we take care of creating your video and vocal clone, and whatever best of class is, we keep all of the things updated.
There have been now three updates within just one of our video providers within the past 18 months. And there’s a noticeable difference between V2 and V3 and we’re automatically, you know, not automatically, it’s a manual process we’re going through and getting that stuff done, but that’s what that covers.
So it makes sure that your likeness is as up to date as possible and using the best in class tools for that generation, no matter where they may come from. And that’s all done behind the scenes, so you don’t worry about any of that.
So that’s where that fee comes in. And that difference in what one version to another can make was shown out in the research between my pilot and the actual study. And so I’ll pause there and let you follow up before I give that teaser anymore.
Helen Todd: Well, your enthusiasm is so infectious. But before we go into your research
Jill Schiefelbein: Yes
Helen Todd: Which we will right after this, I promise to all of our listeners.
Oh, I do really love that Render is a one-stop shop and brings in multiple AI tools into one place to do it. And maybe we will put in the blog post that accompanies this episode, maybe a difference between your first generation to your current one.
And I’m excited too, as the technology improves to see how my avatar evolves. And one thing that Jon said in our interview is, you know, it’s far out now from a technology standpoint, but, you know, using our avatars in the metaverse, you know, makes a lot of sense. And they’re only gonna improve and get more real and like or more realistic looking for that. So I love the evolution.
And I think one thing too, I mentioned earlier that you’re up to eight languages, but as there’s more language integration, you know, our avatars will be able to speak even more languages, which I think is also extremely exciting. As the tech improves, the capabilities of the avatars will improve far more than our human capabilities in some respects.
Jill Schiefelbein: Yeah. And new languages are constantly being developed and tested, you know, you get to see them Helen in early testing stages before they’re like fully vetted. So you’ll have access to some things.
Helen Todd: Oh, nice.
Jill Schiefelbein: Yeah, yeah, yeah. But it’s amazing how fast they’re evolving. And it’s also fascinating from a linguistic standpoint and a syntax standpoint why certain languages are maybe prioritized over others because of the difficulty in programming, which is just fascinating. I’m learning so much about that side of the world, and that’s a huge benefit for me of being involved in this.
Helen Todd: Amazing. Well, we’ve been teasing your research
Jill Schiefelbein: Sorry, I can’t contain myself.
Helen Todd: So let’s dive in. First tell us about the doctorate degree that you’re going after and what your research entails. And just dive in and tell us everything that you can about where you’re at and what you’re learning.’cause I’m so excited to hear everything that you have to say.
Jill Schiefelbein: Oh, well, thank you so much. It’s, you know, clearly, yes, I am excited about it because for me, like of course, I am proud as heck at what we’ve built at Render, right? And I can’t take you know, I can take some like UX input credit for some things, but like, no, like Moki and his team from our chief product officers, like, have killed it and crushed it with this, you know, development and constantly playing and tinkering around.
And Jon has this strategy mind that is just amazing and this foresight to go with it. And then you come in me with this like communication angle that’s sometimes like, hold on guys, that’s cool. And here’s how we may wanna look at it a little differently based on, you know, how humans communicate.
And again, it’s this beautiful marriage of the three of our viewpoints and skills that comes with this amazing experience, you know, and in product.
And my perspective is communication. So I started my doctorate. So I was in academia for a long time. And then one of the reasons I left was because I only had a master’s.
And I’m doing air quotes for people just listening to it now because let’s be honest, a master’s degree is a legit degree, so is a bachelor’s degree. And let’s even be honest beyond that, do you even really need a degree if you have genuine expertise, right? There’s so many ways to look at it, but in academia, oh, you were a second class citizen if you didn’t have doctor in front of your name.
So, you know, I was told at like 27 that, wow, you have one more promotion you can get before you’re tapped out. And I’m like, peace out then I’m plotting my exit strategy. So started my own business. The rest is history.
But I decided during COVID, like many people made interesting decisions at that point in time that, you know what, it’s actually time for me to go back. And I started in January of 2021 in an intensive executive business doctorate program at University of South Florida.
And my goal in going in was my business had become kind of stagnant in terms of where it can go from a scalability standpoint unless I change something dramatically. Like business is going great, very happy with it, but I can only be on so many stages at a time. I can only take on a certain number of consulting clients a year, and I didn’t necessarily want to license out my specific content.
So I started this doctorate with the idea that I was going to build a persuasive assessment. So I was researching communicative neuroscience, I was, you know, influence and persuasion and decision making and all of these things going into a factorially analyzed, you know, validated study, so something like Myers-Briggs, but on persuasive tendencies.
So we are more aware of how we are communicating in specific situations and how that can turn someone on or off very quickly. And I’m like down this road, and that was January of 2021, enter October, 2021, where I got my first avatar. And I, again, I had the same feeling I did that I had when I had Zoom.
Like back in 2009, I was running virtual, like multi-hour virtual events via what was at the time, Adobe Connect, which was like best in class then. And I saw the potential for that. And when Zoom came with that ease of use, I’m like, game changer. Done. You know, I only wish I wasn’t poor at that time and had invested when they went public.
But with that, you know, the entrepreneurial journey, it’s so fun. With that, I got into this synthetic media thing, believed, and again, the intersections of communication, education, technology, democratization, access, adding another layer of humanity through technology, again, I’m not saying take it away from already doing video. I’m saying add it now to your emails, add it now to text to bring it alive more.
And I threw, you know, 10 months of research out the window and started over. So my dissertation, and I’m in the final stages now. I have some preliminary data that I’m really excited to share with all of you today is really all focused on how engaging our avatar videos, informational videos, how trusted are these videos?
How well are people learning? With these videos and that’s all participant filled out. So that’s all subjective data. I mean, how much you learned is a right or wrong answer. So that part’s objective, but you know, everything else. But then what I am fortunate to have access to through a center of sales and innovation at USF is a lab that allows me biometric measuring.
So watching the videos of people watching the videos and analyzing their facial expressions and eye movement for metrics of attention, 20 latent facial expressions and different valences of positive, negative, neutral, and then being able then to objectively pair up what their face and their eyes are saying with their level of engagement, with the level of trust to see if there are any correlations.
So I haven’t gotten to the objective part yet because for context, the video stimulus, it’s either real Jill, avatar Jill, or avatar Jill that says she’s an avatar. It’s an informational message. It’s two minutes long. Two minutes is long for any video, but at 30 frames per second, I have 1 million and 80,000 pieces of data that are being analyzed on the objective end.
Helen Todd: Wow, that’s amazing.
Jill Schiefelbein: To get all of these scores. Yeah, I did my calculator earlier ’cause I did not know a number off the top of my head, so it’s a little insane. So that’s still in process, but what I was able to do is to get to the point where we have some of the subjective data between the three.
And now this audience is people interested, so people had to be, I hired a panel so I had no bias on my self recruitment at all. And it had to be people who are interested in sales or persuasion in some way, shape or form or had it in their role in some way, shape, or form. And the tip was an informational tip on how to think about sales differently.
A little bit of neuroscience in there from the stuff that I was researching, so I did bring it in somehow.
But with that, the results to me so far are pretty fascinating. So tell me what you wanna hear about first.
Helen Todd: The results and the most fascinating things that you’ve been uncovering.
Jill Schiefelbein: So, you know, I mean, there’s so much about it, but I’m thinking, okay, on let’s do the trust.
We talked about this earlier on, whether you disclose your avatar or not. What was really fascinating, and again, so far and the sample set is about 80% complete right now. So there’s still a little room for variance in it, but in that sample dataset, we are showing that just slightly, so no statistically significant difference, but just slightly, if you just wanna look at the raw averages, avatar Jill, who says she’s an avatar, is trusted a little bit more than real Jill, and more, you know, a bigger gap of more than, you know, just plain avatar Jill, which is exactly what I would’ve hypothesized. It makes sense.
What’s fascinating is what same is true on engagement. And I would’ve hypothesized that the human Jill video would’ve had a higher average engagement score. However, one of the unintended consequences is, I am guessing, again, it all goes into research, we don’t know, we’d have to test it again.
Is that because I said it was an avatar, people were probably a little more like, whoa, what, you know, looking at it and being engaged with it. So again, no real statistical significant difference at this point in time, which again, is huge because what that says is for a two minute, which again is long, and it was nothing else on the screen, it was me and my avatar and a white screen behind, because I didn’t wanna test any other variable. I just wanted to test our avatar performance. That’s, that’s huge. Like that’s really huge that there is not this demonstrative difference.
Now what’s also very fascinating, and when you go back, Helen, to the conversation we were having about people introducing their avatar and people having mixed responses, if you think about it, it’s a biased introduction because people who are following you already know you and have a sense of you.
So far, close to 70% of people who watched avatar video Jill believed it was a real human, and in their open-ended responses were like, not a chance, no way, whatever. So the not only majority, a large size majority, enough for two thirds majority, right, believe that this avatar video was actually real human.
’cause they have no other concept of me. Whereas when we’re introducing it to our audiences, they already have a concept of us. So that’s something also very important to keep in mind, because when people see their avatar for the first time, they’re like, well, that’s not exactly me. I’m like, no, it’s your avatar. Of course it’s not.
But other people who don’t know you, we now have, you know, a large sample proof that this is the case. So I also found that super fascinating. The other thing that I think is really important, and I’m going to dive in a little deeper to this, ’cause I think one of the challenge questions, or the learning questions I asked would be thrown out if it was given on a multiple choice test, you know, based on how you evaluate curriculum, so I need to adjust for that.
But all of the groups, every single one of them was in the C range. Like if you were doing, you know, 90 to a hundred is an A, 80 to 90 is a B, you know, 70, 79, whatever is a C, they were all in the C range for retention of information, which for a sample like this, and in a study like this is people are like, well, I don’t want people with a C grade.
This is actually not bad at all. It means that they got the majority of questions right. And that there’s no big, massive difference. So far, again, there’s still more samples coming in that they’re all within a range. This one, the human video performed slightly better than the other two. But again, I’ll see significance levels soon.
But that then, if that can be proven out, there’s a massive, massive capability for people to decide, do I need to invest $10,000 in going into a studio, taking executive time, doing editing, and all of this on short form informational content, or should I save that, do these short form things, and then maybe have an onsite training or do something else to augment it? It enables then business, you know, owners to make more educated decisions on how we’re using technology when we need to communicate.
And so that’s some of the initial results. And the studies that this will spur is amazing, but it is a first study of its type that exists, period. And I’m so pumped to get it out.
There’s other studies that are looking at stock avatars within specific context, but there is no study that just analyzes the efficacy of the avatar without learning text, without visuals, without anything else. And so I think that’s the most pure measure of the technology and its capabilities.
Helen Todd: That’s amazing. Well, congratulations on your study.
Jill Schiefelbein: Thank you.
Helen Todd: And the fact that you’re the first and only one doing it now, and I think, is this the first time that you’re sharing some of the initial learnings?
Jill Schiefelbein: You are getting the first. I got the pilot data, which, oh, the pilot data between versions, very small pilot samples.
So it’s not like the best data in the world. But even between version two and three of my third avatar, there was more people who claimed it was an avatar than otherwise. So again, improvements are happening within even six months.
Helen Todd: That’s amazing. And I know you mentioned executives, but I could just see even professors and anyone with an e-course, if your digital avatar can be just as effective as you, the person being on camera, but the savings of time, having your avatar do it.
I mean, that, that just opens up. I mean, when you said earlier, you know, just everything’s set to explode, whether it’s customer service with avatars, online learning, the use cases just seem to keep opening up more and more, which is really exciting and amazing.
Jill Schiefelbein: Yes, I believe so too. I clearly, I’m excited about it. You can’t tell that at all through this interview, I know.
But it’s, you know, think of the power of now we know that having, you know, we do business with people we know, like, and trust. We learn more from people we know, like, and trust. And if we can have that person represented digitally, studies would anticipate that that will change the way people learn.
So if you already have a PowerPoint presentation that you’re doing, quite literally, all you have to do is record yourself while you’re giving that presentation. You don’t even need to type out the script if you don’t want, but now every slide you click through, you should be doing one to two minutes max per slide anyway, that’s kind of presentation 101 at this point.
So you’re doing that, if not less, right? The rapid go through of slides is also fun. Now you have short videos, pop, pop, pop that you put your avatar in the corner of each of those slides, you have presence represented. You still have visual backgrounds. It’s a piece of cake to present or to produce because all you’re doing is uploading each slide as an image. Boom, these videos are done.
And now you have a person in all of your training in minutes. This changes the game on production at so many different levels.
Helen Todd: That’s amazing. So what’s, what’s next? So you’re finalizing your research. You’re going to get your doctorate, which we’re, you know, congratulations.
Jill Schiefelbein: Yay, Thank you.
Helen Todd: We’re excited for you. Are you hoping to do more research after that and what are some of the other questions that you wanna explore after scratching the surface with this initial research?
Jill Schiefelbein: No, that’s, thank you. The next trains of thought that are going out, and I actually just had a call about this Monday, surprisingly enough, is I’m actually going to partner with the lab that I’m doing for the biometrics right now and my dissertation chair is actually the person who heads that lab conveniently. Funny how that worked out.
And we are going to do a study that tests the avatar performance on informational versus emotional messages. So the content of messages to see what the actual difference is. You know, I have hypotheses that, you know, depending on the level of emotion in the message, right?
If it’s, you know, little bit emotional message, I think it can probably work without much difference. If it’s a super, like, you’re fired, emotional message, it’s gonna be a lot different. So we are starting to investigate how can we effectively layer from a communicative and semantic standpoint, these, the wording of these messages.
Also, of course want to test different avatar delivery, right? The challenge with what I did is we have, you know, I created the avatar and created the script the same day. So I had the same outfit, the same hair, the same everything, same studio, eliminated any type of barrier of production there, which is going to be very difficult for someone to replicate unless they want to go through the exact same process, which if they do, great, like more data is better as far as I’m concerned.
But doing the type of message I think is very intriguing because then when it comes to persuasive communication, so when we’re trying to sell someone, for example, versus educate someone, my hypothesis is it’s more effective for educating than selling. But I don’t know, that’s just my initial guess.
The next one is, as I hinted at earlier, some medical, some more longevity focused studies where you have to get around a lot of legal stuff and having doctor in front of my name will make that a little bit easier from a credibility standpoint.
But I really want to see how this can move the needle for patient follow through, for care for, you know, can we even through this, you know, on the patient onboarding process, if we have videos of the doctor, you’re going to see introducing themself virtually and reminding you to fill out your patient forms, are we going to able to reduce the time spent at the front desk or in the waiting room?
Like all of these things are massive impacts to businesses and quality of care. So if these interventions in small areas can work, I think it’s great. And for me, this first test was really all about what’s engagement, what’s trust, what’s learning with these three things.
And so now that, you know, assuming the data holds where we’re at subjectively people’s own experience and reported experience, there’s not a statistically significant difference between those things that says, okay, yes, now we can place this avatar within one single touchpoint of our customer or our patient experience process and test it there.
What too many people are doing with AI in general is they’re seeing all these tools and it’s like this massive pot of spaghetti and it’s like we’re little kids and we’re reaching in with our hands and like throwing it at the wall and seeing what sticks. Instead of having one specific use case outlined and identified and testing that and seeing how it performs and then adding it to another one.
And so that systemic evaluation is where I’m passionate about clearly because I want to make sure it’s not just this, oh, this is novel, let’s throw it out there and see what sticks. No, this is an integrative, systemic business solution that can change the trajectory of your communication.
Helen Todd: Yeah. That’s amazing.
And I could honestly see it doing well in sales just because I personally hate the model where you, they force you to do a demo and set up a time on, you know, the coordination and then you know, the pressure to be on a sales thing when all you want is a demo. And if you could have an avatar, walk you through that and save everyone’s time.
And then self-select more if you wanna do it, like, please. I don’t want more sales demos.
Jill Schiefelbein: Yeah, I don’t wanna have to block out time in my calendar. I’m interested now. I wanna do it now right. And actually, Helen, I’ll send you, and you can put it on this page an interactive demo, if you will. It’s not of the full product, but it’s a presentation that I created, an interactive one using avatars and showing actual examples of how this could be integrated into different touchpoints within someone’s customer experience.
Just to start seeing these different use cases. And I think to your point,I had not conceptualized it in that way, but I love it. And to your point, like, yeah, this could work no problem. And you could easily customize the intro video for anyone based on the data fields that they’re inputting. So, huge Love that. Going to expand on that now. Thank you. I’ll give you credit.
Helen Todd: Well, and it’s like, I don’t mind hopping on a call to talk with a human when I’m ready, you know, but not a forced demo when I’m just like in a collection information hunting stage.
And the other thing, just to punctuate your point too, just in case, ’cause you mentioned it about the data inputs, just to make sure our listeners understand what that means, like when you do mass emails in the email, you put like the little carrots and like insert name, and then you know, you have fields that your data automatically inserts it. So then when you get a customized email, it’s like, hi Jill, thank you for signing up for my newsletter.
That’s what you’re able to do with video at scale and these custom avatars is instead of just the text being like, Hey Jill, thanks for signing up for my newsletter. You literally can have your avatar then say, hey Jill in video form and then have other inputs. So, Jill has mentioned that, but I just wanted to kind of punctuate that point a little bit more.
And also one thing you said about the emotion, so within Render, you can use your voice clone to add the audio element to the video, or you can upload your own vocals, and then have like the avatar lip sync it more or less to it.
And one thing I’m really curious about also is you mentioned emotional. The first voice clone video I did was kind of had some sarcasm for a friend of mine, and the sarcasm in the voice clone didn’t really translate that well in the way that the, the avatar performs.
But I’d love to it see it side by side with like a voice uploaded that where you can hear the sarcasm and just a voice recording with an avatar being lip synced, like I think that would be really interesting, whether emotional or sarcasm or those other things that, you know, are conveyed vocally too.
Jill Schiefelbein: And that’s, that’s exactly the point of like informational vs. emotional because you can test, you know, real human avatar that has their own voice recorded. Like basically you take the, the audio outta the video, put it right with the avatar, and then audio, you know, avatar is synthetic voice and again, C on those ranges. So you’re controlling those variables to get a really accurate depiction of what is possible.
Helen Todd: Yeah. That’s amazing. Well, I am so excited about all of your research and that we got to get a first like glimpse of what you’re learning.
Jill Schiefelbein: Yes.
Helen Todd: And all the fascinating results. We’ll definitely have you on the show once everything’s finalized.
And for anyone listening who is like, oh my God, yes. I want one of these avatars, we’re bringing their avatar experience here to Cincinnati, Ohio, October 25th and 26th. Jill will be doing a 90 minute learning session in person as well.
And if you sign up for our free weekly firstname.lastname@example.org, there’ll be more information in that on how to sign up and participate. Render also does a studio tour. So if you’re not in Cincinnati or want an excuse to pop in they go to other cities. So, Jill, I don’t know if you wanna expand kind of on your studio tour, but feel free to to jump in here
Jill Schiefelbein: Yeah, sure. I mean, currently we have Denver, we have New York City, we have Cincinnati, we have a place in Florida.
And they change. And so every month, we’re in a different place, sometimes two places in a month depending on, you know, what’s going on in our travel schedules and everything.
And then we also have some certified studios around the country. So if none of those dates work, you can still fill out the application again that I mentioned earlier that says, you’re gonna use this for good, not for ill.
And, you can, you know, tell us your city and we will try to match you as quickly as possible with something that’s gonna be as close to you and convenient so you can start leveraging your digital likeness.
Helen Todd: Amazing. And then for, I guess, closing thoughts, what is one thing that you want our listeners, if they only remember one thing about today’s episode, what’s the one thing that you want them to remember?
Jill Schiefelbein: That’s a really good question because I have like five things, but one thing, one thing only.
Helen Todd: Well, you can do five if you wanna do five.
Jill Schiefelbein: No, I mean, the one thing really, like, I feel like I should be saying something from Render’s end, but the, you know, I’m not going to, I’m actually gonna say one thing from kind of the human and the experimentation side is, don’t be the spaghetti thrower. That’s what I want you to remember. Don’t be the spaghetti thrower.
Any technology that you invest in without a clear, you know, specific point within your customer experience, within your business model, within your existing systems and processes. If you don’t have a clear point that you’re going for, again, you’re just being a, you know, that little kid throwing spaghetti all over the wall?
And while that may be cute, when you’re one year old, when you’re our age, it’s not so cute anymore. So really, don’t be a spaghetti thrower. Think of where you could be improving your employee experience, your customer experience, your audience experience, and then pick the technology that matches it.
And of course, I hope a digital likeness, your custom avatar is going to be that thing. But if it’s not, that’s fine. Be intentional with that choice.
Helen Todd: Well thank you. I love that to start with the intention of what you’re going to do with this technology instead of throwing spaghetti against the wall.
I think that goes with most things in life, so, so appreciate going into that, especially as people are thinking about really any AI tool. ’cause there’s a bazillion out there and popping up left and right, but especially when it comes to synthetic media and especially within the custom avatar landscape.
Jill, it has been an absolute pleasure having you on the podcast. And thank you again for the sneak peek and all of the fascinating results from your research. And I am so excited to see you in person in October here in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Jill Schiefelbein: Same here. Helen, thank you so much and thank you everyone listening for allowing me to clearly not be excited at all and geek out on what we’re doing here at Render and of course, the communicative possibilities.
Helen Todd: Thank you for spending some time with us today. We’re just getting started and would love your support. Subscribe to Creativity Squared on your preferred podcast platform and leave a review. It really helps and I’d love to hear your feedback. What topics are you thinking about and want to dive into more?
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