New workplace technologies often start life as both status symbols and productivity aids. The first car phones and PowerPoint presentations closed deals and also signaled their users' clout.
Some partners at EY, the accounting giant formerly known as Ernst & Young, are now testing a new workplace gimmick for the era of artificial intelligence. They spice up client presentations or routine emails with synthetic talking-head-style video clips starring virtual body doubles of themselves made with AI software—a corporate spin on a technology commonly known as deepfakes.
The firm's exploration of the technology, provided by U.K. startup Synthesia, comes as the pandemic has quashed more traditional ways to cement business relationships. Golf and long lunches are tricky or impossible, Zoom calls and PDFs all too routine.
EY partners have used their doubles in emails, and to enhance presentations. One partner who does not speak Japanese used the translation function built into Synthesia's technology to display his AI avatar speaking the native language of a client in Japan, to apparently good effect.
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