4 Ways Marketers Can Navigate the Ethical Terrain of Advanced Digital Humans 

Posted on by Danny Tomsett

Qatar Airways’ Sama 2.0, the first digital human in aviation, wowed audiences at the ITB conference travel trade show in Berlin last month as she interacted with attendees and media, showcasing a new era in customer experience and interaction in air travel. Following the event, she continues to evolve and train within the QVerse, Qatar Airways’ immersive online platform.

Digital Humans Defined

Digital humans are interactive, 3D avatars powered by artificial intelligence. They are leveraged by brands, corporations and government entities as interfaces for various experiences, like websites, apps, kiosks and AR/VR.

The Virtual Humans Market size was valued at USD 14.32 Billion in 2022. Additionally, Gartner predicts that the digital human market will be worth $125 billion by 2035 and that 50% of B2B buyers will interact with a digital human in the buying cycle by 2026, and that the “majority of B2C enterprise CMOs will have a dedicated budget for digital humans in metaverse experiences” by 2027.

Virtual Influence

Looking at the impact on the job market and economy, digital humans are primed to enhance roles in sales, customer service and staff training. For instance, in the case of job training, a digital human interviewer can provide consistent, AI-driven feedback, assisting in skill development. In healthcare, they can aid in patient intake, offering a non-judgmental platform for patients to share sensitive or uncomfortable information. In entertainment, they are revolutionizing post-production editing processes, saving time and resources. And, in marketing, they can increase website traffic, engagement and conversion rates.

The rise of advanced digital humans presents both opportunities and significant ethical considerations for marketers. As these AI-driven avatars that look like humans become more ubiquitous, they hold the potential to revolutionize industries. At the same time, it’s crucial to navigate the complex ethical landscape that accompanies their development and use.

Here are four ways to navigate the ethical terrain:

1. Enact firm data retention policies as an essential step in safeguarding user privacy. 

Unlike traditional chatbots, digital humans offer a more immersive, interactive experience, encouraging a more personalized and relational experience. This can result in more personal information being shared, and the heightened risk calls for stringent data protection measures. Offering exceptional experience must be balanced with safeguarding user privacy.

2. Address the issue of consent and autonomy.

It’s imperative that users give explicit consent for the collection and use of their data. This is especially crucial when digital humans are deployed as virtual assistants or interactive AI characters. Additionally, when it comes to cloned digital humans, ethical practices demand that the person being replicated provides clear consent, along with permissions from rights holders, particularly in cases involving celebrities or deceased personalities.

3. Set boundaries and transparency around AI experiences.

The emotional and social impacts of digital humans are significant. These AI entities are designed to “feel” as if they are alive and often can be relational to the user. But we should question the need for photorealism and why we would want to “fool” users into believing they are having a human experience. Striking the right balance, avoiding the “uncanny valley”—that sense of unease humans experience in response to robots that are highly realistic—and maintaining the distinction between AI and human connections is crucial—so that users fully understand that they are interacting with a machine. Moreover, this barrier increases trust for the brand.

4. Confront algorithmic bias and ensure diverse representation.

People want to interact with digital humans whom they find approachable. Older generations, for example, might enjoy speaking to a digital human that is of a similar age as themselves. Utilizing diverse datasets and incorporating co-design principles ensures that these entities resonate with a wide array of users. This focus on inclusivity enriches the user experience, enhancing the technology’s acceptance and effectiveness. Remember, the perception of advanced digital humans varies globally and is influenced by cultural nuances. Localization is key to the global acceptance and effectiveness of digital humans.

Augmenting the Workforce

Digital humans work best when they augment the workforce, not replace it. Your workforce is the gold standard in customer care, but real people can’t scale. Overwork leads to burnout and ineffectiveness. If digital humans can handle some parts of HR, marketing, sales or customer service—while maintaining the warmth of an in-person interaction—it makes your employees more available for higher-value, more complicated or higher-touch interactions.

As we navigate the future of advanced digital humans, balancing the immense potential with ethical considerations is paramount. By focusing on data privacy, consent, emotional impact, inclusivity, cultural sensitivity, ethical frameworks and the technology’s role in the job market, we can ensure that digital humans not only revolutionize industries but also enrich our own experience and contribute positively to the advancement of humanity.

Danny Tomsett is the CEO and founder at UneeQ, a company specializing in the digital human technology space.


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