TikTok Is Generating Scarily Realistic AI Avatars of Creators for Ads

hand holding phone with tiktok logo with tiktok symphony digital avatars in the background
TikTok Symphony Digital Avatars Adobe Stock/Esi Adobe Stock/Parvez252 Adobe Stock/Fellow Neko

On June 17, TikTok introduced some new AI tools in a testing phase — AI-generated avatars and sophisticated AI multi-language dubbing software.

We’ve already seen the rise of cartoonish AI influencers, but TikTok’s Symphony Digital Avatars take it to a whole other, scarily realistic level. Here’s what you need to know.

What are Symphony Digital Avatars?

There are two types of TikTok’s new Symphony digital avatars: stock and custom.

“Stock” digital avatars consist of actors from a diverse range of backgrounds that are licensed to be used on a commercial level, while “custom” avatars take on the appearance of a specific creator or brand spokesperson. 

These avatars can also now speak multiple languages. The software responsible for helping these avatars go worldwide is Symphony AI dubbing, which TikTok describes as a “global translation” tool. It enables creators and marketers to dub their content into over ten different languages, including Korean, Portuguese, German, Spanish, and French. 

According to TikTok, this tool automatically detects which language someone is speaking and works to translate, transcribe, and dub the video into the language selected by the user. 

These new tools are currently in a beta testing phase, and creators and brands must apply to participate.

Writer Jess Weatherbed of The Verge viewed a demonstration video of the custom digital avatar, which was based on TikTok’s global head of content strategy and operations, Adrienne Lahens.

She describes it as “a little uncanny, but … looks just natural enough to be convincing if you’re not fixated on its overly expressive movements.”


Introducing Symphony Digital Avatars, to help creators and brands captivate global audiences and deliver impactful messages in an immersive and authentic way. Check out our Newsroom to learn more.

♬ original sound – TikTok Newsroom

Should creators be worried?

Of course, these AI capabilities are impressive, but the ethics of automating some of the lower-level voice acting and advertising jobs is dubious, to say the least. Not only because it feels a bit soulless, but fails to consider that these types of jobs can make a big difference to creators hoping to get their foot in the door.

As Business Insider’s Dan Whateley highlighted in a tweet, it’s worth remembering that creators don’t have a union to represent their interests. During the Hollywood labor strikes last summer, actors and writers were somewhat able to discuss and negotiate terms over concerns of AI ‘replacing’ them, but creators don’t have the same luxury.

Another concern is that these Symphony Digital Avatars raise questions about authenticity and proper endorsements.

Sure, it’s reassuring to know that, according to TikTok, these videos will be accompanied by a ‘Made with AI’ label. But TikTok hasn’t explained how creators will be able to monitor what exactly these AI chatbots are saying and endorsing. 

Media lawyer Robert Freund also argued that these types of virtual influencers potentially offer “a trap for unwary advertisers.” 

“The FTC is clear that all endorsements must reflect the honest beliefs of the endorser, and that explicitly includes virtual/AI influencers,” Freund said in a tweet. “They cannot possibly have used the product, so their endorsement cannot reflect their honest belief.

Are you a creator with strong feelings about virtual influencers? Get in touch at tips@passionfru.it.

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