Virtual Models, Really!

Dateline: 8/25/99

Image courtesy Illusion2K.

It's finally happened. The age of the "virtual supermodel" is upon us. Illusion2K a new division of the prestigious Elite Modeling agency, is in business to create computer graphic human (mostly female) models. The first virtual personality is Webbie Tookay.

From the press release:

"Elite Models, the world's largest and most prestigious modeling agency, is anticipating the turn of the millennium by announcing worldwide today its association with Illusion 2K. It is a new business division at Elite, called Elite Illusion 2K - Virtual Models and Actresses Management, especially created to manage virtual models and special projects."

You can get a great idea of what these folks are up to by listening to a portion of the 8/19/99 edition of the Radio show. The show features a discussion with Luciana Abreu manager of the project and yours truly discusses the possibilities later in the broadcast.

Image courtesy Illusion2K.

If you think this sort of thing won't catch on, you might recall the fuss over the Japanese "virtual" pop star Kyoko Date. Kyoko was a completely make-believe singer in Japan that reached cult status a couple of years ago. A number of Web sites are still around and point to the type of success possible for "virtual" people.

Aside from placing models in front of web sites or inside of virtual runways these models can do things like highlight features of products that don't exist. I'd also expect to see some real time control also known as "Performance Animation" used with these models to appear or host real TV shows. In fact there is a whole organization, the Performance Animation Society dedicated to live virtual performances.

Image courtesy of Illusion2K.

Don't think this type of work is all for fun. This is serious business communications. A recently reported presentation utilizing a virtual character for the corporate board crowd highlights the possibilities.

The whole concept of "Virtual Celebrities" is not completely new. Way back in the 80's Jeff Kleiser one of the founders of the Kleiser Walczak Construction Company (a big time special effects company) coined the term "synthespians" to describe the concept of virtual actors. CNET has a good overview on Virtual Celebrities and developments in the whole area. Pretty soon there may be a Digital Screen Actors Guild ;-)

The Illusion2K folks will be holding a contest for their virtual babes in the near future. Stay tuned for developments.

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