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Meet The Drum's latest cover star: a virtual influencer named Floresta

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The Drum's latest cover star has been revealed as a virtual influencer named Floresta.

Created by the Virtual Influencer Agency and Live & Breathe in partnership with The Drum, Floresta is a social media personality built to kick off a discussion about the real potential of virtual influencers.

A virtual influencer is a social media personality whose images and, in some cases, words, are computer-generated. Examples range from eery would-be popstar Lil Miquela to the cartoonish Noonoouri.

Dudley Nevill-Spencer, the founder of VIA and head of innovation at Live & Breathe, said: "The idea was to create something for The Drum that demonstrated how this actually works."

The Drum has also created a short film to explore some of the ideas and tech used behind the scenes.

I'm Flo I'm half Brazilian, half Portuguese now based in the UK I'm a 25 year old girlbot made by my creators to show people exactly what us #robots can do — fashion, facts, sustainability, you name it! I want to get to know as many of you as possible so please hit me up for chats - but be nice, I don’t do not nice ‍♀. Although I love sustainable fashion, my passion is the environment and this amazing world humans and bots live in. It’s insane, but as we know, there’s a lot of issues going on with the environment. That’s why I’ve decided to go on a trip around this beautiful island and document what I’ve seen and there is some mad bad stuff going on. Can you believe that the 10 hottest years on record have been since 1997, and we in the UK kind of distance ourselves a bit from the consequences of whats going on in the world I get it, seeing the fires in Australia or the floods in East Asia isn't the same as when it is in your local park. But just because we don't notice it doesn't mean it isn't happening here too. Sea levels around the UK have risen by 10cm since 1990 with no prospect of retreating. This is why I am here on instagram, to raise these subjects up - in a sassy girl bot way — helping bots and humans make a positive change together #robot #girlbot #environment #environmentallyfriendly #sustainablefashion #sustainableliving #sustainability #virtualhuman #virtualreality #virtualinfluencer #digitalhuman #influencermarketing #virtualreality #render #daz3d #unityengine #unreal #nreal

A post shared by Floresta Nas Virtual Human (@floresta.nas) on

So, who is Floresta?

Floresta – that's Portuguese for 'forest' – is a 25-year-old woman who's decided to dedicate her social media presence to raising awareness of environmental issues in the UK.

She's been on a tour of the country, photographing beauty spots that are under threat from climate change and ecological collapse. Floresta, or Flo for short, can be seen striking a pose at the Birling Gap or wandering artfully through Britain's disappearing bluebell-carpeted woodlands.

Following a period of intense research aided by machine-learning analysis of 500,000 conversations across various social media platforms, VIA's team created a backstory, a personality and an aesthetic for Floresta – from her clothes to the colour of her eyes to her haircut – to appeal to that audience.

She posts images rendered by the agency's design team, shares poetry penned by a neural network that can produce original verse and, crucially, she holds conversations with her followers, her replies produced using natural language processing (NLP) software that can effectively mimic a chosen tone.

The NLP functionality created for Flo was built in partnership with Phil Hall of commercial NLP firm Elzware, while the recurrent neural network used to generate her poetry was made in partnership with Tiny Giant's Richard Norton.

As Flo travels around the country, she'll engage with fellow human users on the site, growing her own following and amplifying her message of ecological awareness.

The latest issue of The Drum explores the marketing case for virtual influencers, as well as the ethical considerations already being discussed in this emerging discipline. You can grab your copy of the latest issue of The Drum here.

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