It seems that barely a day goes by without more news on the advances of AI into just about every creative field. We have new AI models for image generation and video generation emerging on a weekly basis, but it seems we'll soon be seeing AI models of a different kind – fashion models rather than machine learning algorithms.
Levi's has just announced that it will begin to 'supplement' its use of real humans with hyper-realistic AI-generated models as soon as next year. Yes, soon models won't just look unrealistically perfect; they won't be real people at all (which means big changes for print adverts). But Levi's says its aim is the opposite of what you might think.
Until recently, AI text-to-image generation models still found human figures to be a challenge. Faces could look nightmarish, requiring major editing in other software, and hands would rarely have the usual number of fingers. But the technology is advancing at a rapid rate – we saw just this month how the latest version of Midjourney is much more reliable at creating hands with five fingers.
We've already seen the launch of an AI modelling agency (yes really). And now Levi Strauss & Co has become one of the first major fashion brands to publicly announce plans to use AI models. But while the cynics among us might take this to be a move designed to save money and to show its clothes on bodies that are even more unrealistically perfect than those of heavily retouched models, the company insists that isn't the case.
The AI models will only 'supplement' Levi's use of real models, and the objective is all about making the shopping experience more 'personal' and 'inclusive'. Levi's says it will use AI models representing every body type, age, size, and skin tone to allow customers to see how its products look on models that look more like themselves.
It will work on the project with Lalaland.ai, a company founded in Amsterdam in 2019, that uses artificial intelligence to create hyper-realistic 'body-inclusive avatars'. The company says it's previously worked with Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger.
In a blog on the Levi Strauss website, Dr. Amy Gershkoff Bolles, global head of digital and emerging technology strategy, says “While AI will likely never fully replace human models for us, we are excited for the potential capabilities this may afford us for the consumer experience."
While the intention sounds like something that should be welcomed, the controversy around AI generation can make using it a risky move for many brands. We've already seen Netflix pilloried for using AI to create an anime.