We talked to Veronica Orvalho of Didimo on how its technology automates all stages of character creation into a one-click experience and she had the following to say about it:-
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Didimo.
Veronica Orvalho: First of all, I am a mom of a lovely boy and a girl, an optimist engineer, and a professor at Porto University, aside from being CEO and founder at Didimo. I am fascinated by the many ways in which people communicate, learn and share knowledge, so I set out to discover a new way to interact and instill trust and empathy in the digital era – at scale through high-fidelity digital humans.
With a Ph.D. in Computer Graphics, I have been honored to receive the Women Who Tech Award in New York and the IBM scientific award. As a way to give more access to research and opportunities, I founded the European/US-funded research laboratory at Porto University, have had published work in international conferences and journals (SIGGRAPH, EUROGRAPHICS, CHI, etc.), commercialized unique IP in Microsoft and Universal Studios, worked at IBM and Ericsson. Some of my inventions have been used by Universal Studios, Sony, Microsoft, and Amazon.
Didimo started in 2016 as a result of over 14 years of research in the area of creating virtual humans. We live in a world that is becoming more and more technological, and there have probably never been so many possibilities for people to connect as there are now. Still, we feel that when communication is mediated by technology, it loses the human side. Our mission is precisely to make up for this lack of essential characteristics to human individuality, such as emotions, expressiveness, and subtleties of each person. Basically, we want to make virtual communication more organic, real, and human.
What are digital humans?
Veronica Orvalho: Digital humans are a digital representation of yourself, encompassing everything from physical to emotional characteristics.
How are Didimos created?
Veronica Orvalho: Our technology consists of developing high fidelity digital humans for businesses and consumers, in an easy and accessible way, and around 90 seconds. In other words, with our patented technology, we compile all the areas involved in the process of creating a 3D avatar – such as modeling, manipulation, texture, 3D animation, among others – and distill hundreds of hours of work into a single, simple, and fast process, allowing everyone to have access to their digital representation.
We have licensed our API so that companies can integrate the ability to create Didimos through their applications. Any person can download our app and create their Didimo by uploading or scanning a photo of themselves on a smartphone. Then the magic happens.
Using AI, computer graphics, and computer methods, our patented technology creates personalized 3D characters in about 90 seconds. Users can then take this digital version of themselves to interact in the virtual world, in areas such as games, retail, and mixed reality communication.
How could digital humans improve our daily lives?
Veronica Orvalho: With the pandemic, we have seen how important our digital interactions have become. At first, everything was working very smoothly, but as months passed and we were having most of our interactions online, people started noticing the lack of human aspects and warmth.
At Didimo, this is exactly our mission, to bridge this gap in our digital interactions.
Through digital humans, we can be able to personalize every experience online, from video games to retail, making every experience more unique and a differentiator factor for our partners. For example, in healthcare, a digital avatar can give a face and voice to someone who might not be able to speak. In education, a digital avatar can help break the language barrier by allowing you to speak in any language and be able to share your knowledge easily across cultures. In retail, you can see exactly how you look in glasses or makeup or a jacket and therefore more easily make choices that are right for you. There are so many ways this can help every person do more, authentically as themselves.
How does your company differentiate from the competition?
Veronica Orvalho: We are the only solution that allows you to create a digital human with just one click on a single platform because it integrates all the steps of creating a high-fidelity 3D representation of an individual in a single process. We focus on “high quality quickly”… The ability to create amazingly high-quality digital avatars in a very short timeframe. Other companies do the different parts of the process in isolation, be it creating the 3D model, the 3D systems, or the 3D animation, and it takes a lot of time, infrastructure, and money to complete the process. Our goal is to help people easily access this technology. And our technology can be integrated into existing apps and platforms so our customers can seamlessly provide it to their consumers.
What is the future of digital humans and its next breakthrough?
Veronica Orvalho: We are unlocking a rich and exciting future. With a digital double of ourselves, it will be easier to buy clothing or makeup, easier to learn, easier to share with others…because every digital reaction will allow us to see and present ourselves authentically. As computing shifts more into the spatial realm, having 3D virtual representations of ourselves will be a critical component to unlocking future experiences and value. Right now, we are just starting to innovate in areas of text-to-speech and AI-generated responses that will continue to make virtual interactions more human and rewarding.
Your final thoughts?
Veronica Orvalho: Technology is evolving quickly. But the important thing to remember is that it is only valuable if it helps us be more authentically ourselves and helps us reach our goals. The days of interacting with a flat panel device are at their height, but look closely, and you can see invitations that allow us to become richer in our interactions and experiences. That’s where we are excited to lead people.
2020 taught us a lot of new things, especially that we are capable of more than we expected and that making a real connection with people is at the core of everything important to us as humans. We were born to be connected with others and have a deep need for this connection. And now, through Didimos, we have a better way to experience connection digitally.