New Way of Working

Avatars - who is talking to me?

New Work does not only stand for a different culture of working together. New Work also stands for the desire to try out new technologies. This is how ERGO came up with the idea of inviting some colleagues into the studio to create avatars of themselves. The result was explanatory films for the intranet on the topic of New Work, which surprised the employees because of their realism. 

Why avatars at all?

Of course, the avatars are not meant to be a substitute for the real people. Messages that they want to convey personally will continue to be published as "real" video messages. Rather, the avatars are meant to "upgrade" messages that would normally have been exclusively in written form. This means that instead of reading, people can simply listen, get information comfortably and watch "effigies". Avatars make it possible to provide all employees with information quickly and easily in a modern form of explanatory films - in this case for New Work.

And admittedly: There was also curiosity involved when the decision was made to try out the new technology. After all, avatars are a megatrend and the technology offers an incredible number of opportunities. For example, the synchronisation of lips and the ability to type in texts is possible for up to 64 languages. Text passages typed in German can be immediately translated into any language in the world. The avatars would immediately sound convincingly Japanese with a synthetic voice, if that were wanted.

Manageable costs

Compared to conventional video productions, the costs of avatar speakers are manageable and, what's more, the avatars can be used anytime and anywhere. No one has to travel to any film set, a computer is enough. Moreover, the transformation from text to video is child's play, anyone can operate it without prior knowledge.

The start-up behind the technology used by ERGO is called Synthesia. ERGO is currently working on various prototypes. For example, the technology supports so-called avatar personas, which provide information to visitors in the new Düsseldorf Central Library in KAP1 - instead of written information. The ERGO Sales Academy and ERGO Learning & Training are also already working with this technology.

How do you get your avatar?

The colleagues for whom an avatar is to be created have to come to the film studio once to record videos lasting several minutes. The algorithm behind Synthesia thus learns with which facial expressions the artificial digital images have to speak in order to appear realistic. In addition, the technology needed voice samples of real people so that a comparable artificial voice can be created.

That's all it takes, the rest is just entering text via the keyboard or uploading files. The software then selects the lip movements and facial expressions to match the keyboard text, creating videos that look deceptively real.

"Deceptively" genuine

"Deceptive" is an important term in this context. Although the Tech Trend Radar by Munich Re and ERGO presented the technology as a megatrend in its current issue, it also warns of risks. For example, videos are already circulating on the net with supposed interviews with politicians that never happened.

That is why Munich Re and ERGO are also looking into systems that can unmask such fakes. But they are a good example of how the best technology still has a hard time fooling us humans. And that's a good thing!

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