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Your favourite singer could eventually be your GPS' voice

AI startup Oben is creating avatars of South Korean celebrities that'll live in your phone, and it wants to rope Hollywood into the action too.


Oben, a California-based AI startup, has partnered South Korean talent agency, SM Entertainment, to put avatars of South Korean celebs such as girl group, Girls' Generation, in your smart devices.

SM Entertainment

In the future, Daniel Radcliffe, Gal Gadot or whoever your favourite celebrity is could live inside your phone and other smart devices. At least, one company hopes so.

Artificial intelligence startup Oben has partnered with South Korean talent agency SM Entertainment to launch AI Stars. AI Stars will see avatars of celebrities created using AI technology for use in "lifestyle applications."

The project will recreate a celeb's voice, image and character within an avatar that replicates its human counterpart. Expected to be introduced later this year, the avatars will be incorporated into smart devices, robots, chatbots and self-driving vehicles.

This is good news for many in the west, where K-pop is becoming increasingly popular. Recent years have seen Korean bands perform on "The Late Show With David Letterman" and festivals like SXSW.  The company intends on eventually making avatars of US celebs too though, according to The Hollywood Reporter.  

The company will begin a "steady roll out" of the technology so it becomes available to consumers by end of this year, an Oben spokesman told CNET. He confirmed that Oben is indeed working to secure deals with other talent agencies globally.

The era of artificial intelligence is truly coming upon us, with assistants like Amazon's Alexa, Apple's Siri and Google's, well, Assistant, getting more space in the home. The tech also has promising medical applications, and Facebook is also looking to use AI to fight terrorism on its platform.

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First published June 29, 3:09 a.m. PT.
Update, June 30, 2:21 a.m.: Adds comment from Oben.