Category: articles

Meet the Technologist

Global chief creative technologist at VMLY&R COMMERCE on tinkering around making games on his lunch breaks, learning the “dark arts of traditional creative” and why digital humans could be the norm sooner than you think

An interview I did for Little Black Book





Meta Humans taking over Cont.

A few months ago I wrote this article on Meta humans

Where i went into some details on how easy it is to create meta humans via unreal engine and how this technology is already being used for good with the Albert Einstein example.

In such a little amount of time I’m seeing more and more meta humans popping up, especially in social.

For example in the header picture we have one virtual influencer and one ‘real’ person… well I think!!!

Some brands are using meta humans as influencers, sounds strange right, you would think who would follow a meta human vs a real person?!

But, they do and its a lot of people as well nearly 6 million for Lu who i mention below.

Let me introduce you to a few.

Meet Lu the virtual influencer of a Brazilian retail Magazine Luiza. Lu is the ‘face’ of the brand sharing the latest technology available to consumers on her social media account @magazineluiza

Next is Lilmiquela.


@lilmiquela is a self acclaimed Influencer, fashionista, pop star and model.

What I did find really interesting about this influencer was the amazing story telling, there is a whole back story, baby photos etc.. but in the end she does find out that she is in fact a meta human or ‘Robo’ in her words. With 3m followers they have to be doing something right, like selling clothing below.



There are many more meta human and strange influencers out there, a good source for finding them is on which lists the top 35 verified insta influencers.

Lets end this little update post on meta humans with a little bit of weird..

Meet @nobodysausage



No it isn’t a meta human, but its proof of the potential of virtual influencers, be they meta humans or in this case a sausage.. yes that is a sausage advertising for an insurance company in the example below. By no means am I mocking the sausage, I am honestly impressed, and I don’t want hate mail from a sausage.. you will never be able to explain that one to anybody.





Darren Richardson is a Digital Executive with over 20 years experience in bringing Technology and Creativity closer together for Brands.


Commerce Projection Mapping

Projection mapping has been with us for a decade or more now with light shows on buildings and lighting the sky up with brands logos and objects that leave the viewer mouth wide open.

The art was the main focus, yes it was beautiful, exciting and captivating…



But… How do we make something beautiful and engaging into something that has a function towards transactions for commerce

I saw the case from New Balance 10 years ago, and and it wasn’t until I saw the other cases below that are still very similar that I realized even 10 years later we are using this technology mainly for show vs function

New Balance Case



A Commerce Projection solution could be…

So, imagine this functionality, instead of an art show projected on the shoes, you take artist designs or even better, community designed shoes that are projected in-store, the customer can then pause the projection and be given the ability to be purchase unqiue and limited edition designs.

Why? I hear you ask.

This would;

  1. Give the store more designs to share and open the eco-system up to a open network where communities can help build the brand and sales.
  2. Give the community the ability to design and sell, and in return giving them rewards (NFT’s / bitcoins / Coupons / Discounts / FAME)
  3. Give consumers more options that can also be customized, like NikeID but physically vs digital only.


This simple example shows how we can turn a technology that has all been about lean back experience into a lean forward experience.

Making it more engaging for consumers and more profitable for the brands

And lowering the environmental impact of mass production and waste. [Thanks Felix for the build]

This can all be done with Creative Technology.

Creative Technology Definition;

“Creative technology has been defined as “the blending of knowledge across multiple disciplines to create new experiences or products” that meet end user and organizational needs.

A more specific conceptualization describes it as the combination of information, holographic systems, sensors, audio technologies, image, and video technologies, among others with

artistic practices and methods.

The central characteristic is identified as an ability to do things better.

Creative technology is also seen as the intersection of new technology with creative initiatives such as fashion, art, advertising, media and entertainment.


Heard of Digital Selves!?

Shamefully, ‘Selves’ isn’t a term I was familiar with, until wrote an article on MetaHumans, and was introduced to a fellow at the MIT initiative on the Digital Economy, called Michael Schrage. Michael has been doing collaborative research on ‘Selves’, and all the possibilities and opportunities they could bring us in the future.

Firstly, what are Selves?

Selves, in the simplest terms, are digital duplicates and doppelgangers of ‘Ones’. They’re analogous to the ‘digital twins’ you hear about for the ‘internet of things’. Ideally digital selves would amplify all of your best human aspects and attributes, to quote Michael. He also believes they should be designed to mitigate your lesser qualities. He wants a ‘digital selve’ nudging him to stop interrupting, based on our interview, or so I understand… 🙂

As he puts it, “These ‘multiple selves’, will yield more productive employees, more empathetic companions, and more creative thinkers — not merely automated attendants.” Michael is referring to current agent-based intelligent systems, such as Siri and Alexa, that help you with chores, calendars, lists and find information for you at speed. These current systems are responding with automated responses based on learning.

In short, Selves could be a disruptive future and evolution of our current automated attendants, with the advancements in AI and machine learning.

I asked Michael a few questions based on the above and his responses are below;

Q: Looking at Selves through a commerce lens, would a Selve, embedded into a digital mirror, know how to respond to a shopper query like “ I’m not sure which dress or suit looks best on me, what do you think?”

A: That’s (almost) exactly the right question, you want an ‘affective’ self to be able to advise ‘you’

Forgive the intrinsic gender orientation for this example – which dress is ’sexier,’ more ‘professional’ more ’stylish’ etc. based on the data-driven/recommender systems-enabled ‘preferences’ and ‘attributes’ that have been algorithmically inferred So a lululemon-like or AR ‘mirror’ should be able to ‘model’ dresses that (literally) reflect one’s ’selves preference’ – projecting ‘power and confidence’.

 My design ethos emphasizes ‘agency’ and ‘choice’ – not the commanding approach.

Multiple selves are about empowering people to get greater ROI (return on introspection) on how they want to be seen and how they want to (in your use case) see themselves.



Q: And another use case, could be for a helpline for addiction to talk someone down from self-harming. How would a Selves respond differently?

A: wow, again – great question, there are now a ton of ‘mindfulness’ apps and other ‘mental health’-oriented ‘chatbots’ that could, indeed, be used to create a different/healthier dialogue/conversation with one’s self. But now we’re venturing into areas where I think more serious research needs to be done: i.e., would a ‘mental/emotional health’ self give better results than t third-party/therapeutic ‘bot’ from a health care service? these are non-trivial issues with enormous global repercussions and more research is needed.

Let’s look to the NHS, America’s National Institute of mental health and other research agencies to sponsor ‘selves-oriented’ mental health diagnostics and treatment.

Q: How effective are Selves today, in responding to emotional responses vs rational / functional?

A: Well, if one reads Hume, he persuasively argues, that ‘reason is a slave to passions’ – this research domain the entangling of ‘rational’ and ‘affective’ selves is the hottest in neurology, neurophysiology, cognitive psychology and social psychology, which is a long-winded way of saying, the science here not only isn’t settled, it’s barely begun. These are exciting times for how one imagines one’s future selves.

 Q: Are Selves actually a reality today? If not, how far off are we from having AI that will deliver this?

A: I like to say/observe that most of the pieces are already here. They just haven’t been put together in a ’selves-oriented’ way. I believe the focus has been misplaced: we’re optimizing software ‘agents’ at the expense of cultivating effective/affective ’selves portfolios’, I think the future – 2025/6 – will increasingly be about multiple digital selves managing multiple software agents. Today, top decile productive manage multiple devices with multiple apps – some automation-oriented; others augmentation oriented; tomorrow, the most productive managers will manage teams of multiple selves, no, I’m not kidding.

The outstanding open question is whether those selves will be accessed via augmented and virtual reality interfaces versus a ‘new and improved’ mobile ‘phone’.


As you can imagine, the use cases for digital Selves would be extensive; interacting with a digital version of you, to aid in commerce situations, from buying groceries to even talking through the rational of buying your next car.

Selves remind me of a highly advanced version of this Gatebox (below), that I saw at CES, which launched in Japan. But as I said, Selves, if they become reality, would deliver way more benefits than a hologram companion, which I found a bit creepy to be honest.



It’s still not clear how Selves will come to life, and I would assume it could take any form; MetaHuman, Voice, hologram or abstract, it’s the content they will deliver that’s most important.

As Michael said, we are not there yet, especially with the more emotional decisions, such as the help-centre example. But, with better AI and machine learning, it will not be long before we will see commerce solutions everywhere.

I’m personally looking forward to meeting my digital Selves; I hope we like each other!

Reference Links

Michael Schrage is a research fellow at the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy (IDE) and the MIT Sloan School of Management, and author of The Innovator’s Hypothesis: How Cheap Experiments Are Worth More Than Good Ideas.

Article on Selves by Michael


Michael’s white paper:


 Darren’s post on MetaHumans.

 Darren Richardson is a Digital Executive with over 20 years experience in bringing Technology and Creativity closer together for Brands.

Are Digital Humans taking over

This feels like a headline or title to a science fiction movie, one that would bring panic to the human race, taking your imagination to iconic films Matrix or iRobot where AI or robots run the world.

The intent of the headline was to make this short article thought provoking and start a debate, not to scare you into a panic frenzy shopping trip to stock up on a years worth of toilet paper.

Let’s start with what are digital humans, here I found a quote form deloitte

Digital Humans are AI powered human-like virtual beings that offer the best of both: AI and Human conversation. They can easily connect to any digital brain to share knowledge (i.e. chatbot and NLP) Interact using verbal and non-verbal cues – tone of voice and facial expressions.

The best way to create a Digital human or MetaHuman is via the Unreal engine using the MetaHuman Creator , which is a Cloud-based app to create high-fidelity digital humans in minutes.

You can sign up for early access to the generator, and it’s true I was able to create my own MetaHuman in a matter of minutes, they give you a starting structure and from there you can blend in up to three people, change everything from eyes to outfit. I would highly recommend spending 15 mins playing with the app.

An example of the output is below.


You will also have to connect speech and AI together to make the MetaHuman actually interact with you, but this isn’t a tutorial on how to do it, more why you should explore MetaHumans

So, what are the uses for Digital humans and will they really take over the world? the best way to answer that or give my opinion is to show an example that UNEEQ created to share the wisdom of Albert Einstein, enabling school children to ask Mr Einstein all about his life and work.



Using the Albert Einstein example you can see how such a thing can help, other use-cases are help centers, we have all experienced calling our internet supplier for technical support and them reading from a list of actions, such as “have you turned it on and off at the wall socket and waited 10 seconds before plugging it back in”. The trouble is most call centers are not open 24hrs a day, and we live our lives on 24hrs day, so having a MetaHuman to answer and solve 80 percent of calls out of hours will only add to the customer satisfaction, win win situation.

In the future when the AI is more advanced the MetaHuman could also be used on helplines for more sensitive subjects like addiction, but we are still a long way off from here, its one thing looking human, its another having emotional responses.

Because of the realism like below you can also film Brand Commercials (TVC’s) and even films in the future, in fact lots of films have already be created using MetaHumans, MetaHumans will never take the main roles in my view… (I know I’m wrong with the film Avatar), but I can’t see a MetaHuman taking the place of a Robert DeNiro and delivering the role as well.


Coming back to the headline, I don’t believe MetaHuman / Digital Humans are taking over the world, but what they doing is supporting when real humans can’t interact, making a connection, answering questions and giving a more emotive experience than just voice or text interactions.

Therefore my view is – NO MetaHumans are not taking over, but YES they are the future.

This was just a quick intro into what MetaHumans are and what they can be used for, below there are a couple of Links for further reading.


Unreal Engine –



Darren Richardson is a Digital Executive with over 20 years experience in bringing Technology and Creativity closer together for Brands.