The latest crop of Instagram supermodels are robots

Meet Shudu.

With her flawless unblemished skin, perfectly symmetrical face, striking features and full lips, the 20-something South African beauty has all the qualities of a desirable supermodel.

There’s just one minor detail. She’s not real.

The rise of the robot supermodel

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Automation is coming for us.

From bank tellers to telemarketers, retail cashiers to even bomb squads — robots are slowly replacing humans in a number of industries.

In the social media age, modeling is the next industry in line.

Shudu is actually a creation of London-based photographer Cameron-James Wilson, who has been called “the world’s first digital supermodel.”

While a digital model can’t strut down a runway and rock a Gucci dress in the flesh, it can serve as a powerful marketing tool on social media.

It’s called CGI modeling — computer-generated imagery. Wilson says he doesn’t make money from Shudu, but sees this style of modeling as a future for the industry.

In his vision, according to Cosmopolitan, a supermodel like Kendall Jenner could get her whole body scanned and this digital form could then be used in various campaigns and advertisements.

“The famous quote is, ‘I wouldn’t get out of bed for less than $10,000 a day,’” Wilson told the magazine. “What if you didn’t even have to get out of bed at all?”

Shudu has become a viral Instagram sensation, with over 130,000 followers. She looks so realistic that brands were asking her to promote their products, evidently not realizing she was nothing more than a digital image.

British company Irmaz Models is already embracing this trend. The “Imagined Reality Modelling Agency” creates computer-generated models that can easily be customized based on what’s needed.

“Brands can specify the look they’re exactly after, down to the race, gender and hairstyle,” Philip Jay, the former Playboy photographer who leads Irmaz Models, told CNN.

And unlike real models, he says, they don’t give attitude, they don’t get tired and they’re available non-stop.

Shudu is far from the first “digital person” to go viral on social media.

You may remember Lil Miquela, the unique and eerily symmetrical entity who divided the internet in 2016 and now boasts over 1.3 million followers.

Lil Miquela kept the internet guessing for a long time. The majority of her photos were self-portraits, but she gave away very little about her actual life, prompting thousands to question if she was human or not.

In 2017, it was finally revealed that she was a “virtual influencer” — the work of an LA-based artificial intelligence firm called Brud.

She wore high-end brand clothes, “hung out” at upscale restaurants and even gave interviews to the media — via email, of course.

Big problems with digital models

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Robot supermodels are still in their early days, but they have the potential to be extremely problematic.

For one thing, they could put real models, photographers and other workers in the fashion industry out of business. Why waste thousands of dollars when you can get an artist to make it for less?

In an interview with the Washington Post, however, Wilson denied this. “Do I think 3-D models will impact editorials and put human models out of work — no, not really,” he said. “It’s a completely different space.”

Another issue is with the self-esteem of the wider public. Earlier this week, a study released by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute discovered a link between hormone levels and body satisfaction in prepubescent children for the first time.

The study found that negative body image was affecting people as young as 8, noting social media as one of the main culprits.

If we already feel worthless comparing ourselves to carefully airbrushed models on vacation, how can we compete with supermodels who literally aren’t even human?

Renee Engeln, a Northwestern University professor and psychologist who studies body image, told CNN this could have serious implications for women’s health in particular.

“There is no world in which this is good for women’s health,” she said. “To know that women are going to be comparing themselves to women who…are literally inhuman strikes me as some kind of joke that isn’t very funny.”

It’s all getting a little too “Black Mirror,” isn’t it?

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