SK-II jumps on virtual influencer hype with YUMI

SK-II is partnering with AI company Soul Machines to create its first autonomously animated digital influencer, YUMI. Using Google Dialogflow as its natural language platform, YUMI is able to interact as a human would and will not only provide beauty advice, but also help consumers better understand their skin.

SK-II said YUMI is an integral part of its ongoing transformation journey to engage with the younger consumers who are yearning for more meaningful experiences with the brands they know and trust.

According to Soul Machines, the difference between YUMI and what are being touted as digital influencers is that YUMI can operate at scale, autonomously of human intervention. She will express emotions and information through a "digital brain". Harnessing advanced AI, she can respond and interact just as a human would.

Meanwhile, through Soul Machines' Digital DNA Studio, YUMI is not only life-like but also developed with a personality. SK-II's latest animated digital influencer was built rapidly and can change dynamically to reflect the personality of the brand, unlike current approaches which depend on hand-tooling and significant animation, Soul Machines said. The company added in the press release that hyper-real imagery and hyper-real expressions, reactions and conversations are crucial in creating a human experience. As such, it is important for the AI influencer to not only look good, but the experience has be relatable and feel great as well.

YUMI will also adapt and respond based on the consumer in front of her, unlike the current bots which are designed to follow pre-scripted animation paths and are fixed in the way they are designed. YUMI will also be integrated with information to deliver what consumers are looking for - help, advise, tips and tricks.

Sandeep Seth, CEO, global SK-II said that YUMI is more than just a digital influencer. In fact, she is a digital human capable of interacting and engaging in ways technology has not been able to do until now.

YUMI personifies our goal to combine technology and creativity to benefit customers. She provides the warmth and connection of human touch in the form of a digital experience to make the overall skincare experience at home and in store more enjoyable and compelling," he said.

Greg Cross, co-founder and chief business officer of Soul Machines said: "YUMI will become a trusted resource to those who interact with her. Customers will immediately notice how easy the Soul Machines digital humans are to converse with and relate to once they spend time interacting with YUMI."

SK-II joins KFC in rolling out its own virtual influencer. Earlier this year, the fast food company worked with Wieden + Kennedy to unveil a virtual influencer in the image of Colonel Sanders. Meanwhile, other virtual influencers in the industry include Shudu Gram, a CGI model created by fashion photographer Cameron-James Wilson and Miquela Sousa, an Instagram model and music artist introduced in 2016 by a company in Los Angeles. Sousa was recently featured in a Calvin Klein ad alongside American model Bella Hadid.