Forever young, beautiful and scandal-free: The rise of South Korea’s virtual influencers

he’s got more than 130,000 followers on Instagram, where she posts photos of her globetrotting adventures.

Her makeup is always impeccable, her clothes look straight off the runway. She sings, dances and models — and none of it is real.Rozy is a South Korean “virtual influencer,” a digitally rendered human so realistic she is often mistaken for flesh and blood.

“Are you a real person?” one of her Instagram fans asks. “Are you an AI? Or a robot?”According to the Seoul-based company that created her,

Rozy is a blend of all three who straddles the real and virtual worlds.She is “able to do everything that humans cannot … in the most human-like form,” Sidus Studio X says on its website.

That includes raking in profits for the company in the multibillion-dollar advertising and entertainment worlds.Since her launch in 2020, Rozy has landed brand deals and sponsorships, strutted the runway in virtual fashion shows and even released two singles.

And she’s not alone.The “virtual human” industry is booming, and with it a whole new economy in which the influencers of the future are never-aging, scandal-free and digitally flawless — sparking alarm among some in a country already obsessed with unobtainable beauty standards.

The CGI (computer-generated imagery) technology behind Rozy isn’t new. It is ubiquitous in today’s entertainment industry, where artists use it to craft realistic nonhuman characters in movies, computer games and music videos.

But it has only recently been used to make influencers.Sometimes, Sidus Studio X creates an image of Rozy from head to toe using the technology, an approach that works well for her Instagram images. Other times it superimposes her head onto the body of a human model — when she models clothing, for instance.

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