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AI Version of Marilyn Monroe Unveiled at SXSW

Years after the Elvis Presley and Tupac Shakur holograms, another celebrity is being brought back from the dead — this time, through artificial intelligence.

Soul Machines, the company behind AI-powered “digital people,” unveiled its partnership with Authentic Brands Group on Friday for Digital Marilyn, which uses Marilyn Monroe’s likeness to offer “both fans and brands a unique and personalized engagement opportunity.”

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Authentic acquired the intellectual property of Monroe in 2011 after it was sold by Anna Strasberg, wife of Monroe’s late acting teacher Lee Strasberg. Monroe had left most of her estate to Lee in her will.

Digital Marilyn is said to “interact with fans in real-time using advanced natural language processing, deep learning and GPT 3.5.” It replies in Marilyn’s voice and affectations, shares anecdotes from the late star and “even delivers personalized greetings.”

“This collaboration exemplifies the transformative power of AI in connecting brands and consumers,” Soul Machines co-founder and CEO Greg Cross said in a statement. “Digital Marilyn showcases our Biological AI, bringing an iconic personality to life through engaging dialogues and emotional intelligence. It’s more than nostalgia; it’s a glimpse into the future of immersive interactions.”

The exclusive first look at Digital Marilyn was shown at SXSW in Austin, Texas, on the same day as its announcement.

“Marilyn Monroe remains a timeless icon, inspiring generations with her talent, charisma and enduring legacy,” said Dana Carpenter, executive vp, entertainment, at Authentic Brands Group. “We are thrilled to partner with Soul Machines, whose cutting-edge technology is the perfect match to bring Marilyn to life in the AI age. While Marilyn Monroe can never be replaced or duplicated, Digital Marilyn opens exciting possibilities for multiple generations of fans to engage with her in a whole new way, fostering a deeper connection and appreciation for her enduring spirit and the mark she left on the world.”

Soul Machines, founded in 2016 by Cross and Mark Sagar, has previously created Digital Celebrities including Carmelo Anthony, Jack Nicklaus, Mark Tuan and Francis Ngannou.

Upon the news, a number of social media users criticized the development.

AI and its role in the entertainment industry became a hot-button topic during the dual actors and writers strikes last year. Though the unions negotiated deals designed to protect their members against the technology, OpenAI’s Sora has recently sparked new fears. The technology from the Sam Altman-led company, unveiled last month, can produce high-quality videos of complex scenes.

Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Tyler Perry revealed that he paused a planned $800 million expansion of his Atlanta studio after viewing the technology.

“Being told that it can do all of these things is one thing, but actually seeing the capabilities, it was mind-blowing,” he said.

Though, as a business owner, he sees the opportunity presented by AI, he said he is also worried about what the technology means for the entertainment industry.

“There’s got to be some sort of regulations in order to protect us,” he said. “If not, I just don’t see how we survive.”

Authentic has not yet responded to The Hollywood Reporter‘s request for comment.

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