There's a new option for brands who can't afford a Kardashian to plug their product on Instagram, or who have lost the phone number for Naz from The Bachelor.

New Zealand startup Soul Machines has created Yumi - who it is billing as "the world's first autonomously animated digital influencer."

Yumi was created for skin care brand SK-II as part of an effort to connect with younger consumers.

In a show reel created for the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity (see above), Yumi moves relatively naturally, but sounds suprisingly robotic.


Using Google Dialogflow as its natural language platform, Yumi is capable of interacting as a human would and will not only provide beauty advice but also help consumers better understand their skin and guide them on their journey to skin transformation, Soul Machines says.

While Yumi is possibly more marketing stunt woman than influencer at this point in her career, Soul Machines, which recently raised around $30m in a Series B round, has plenty of more developed business, too, with clients like Mercedes Benz (also an investor), Air New Zealand and ANZ (which might be wishing it had an AI spokesperson to front to media this week).

Along with a second Auckland virtual assistant startup, FaceMe, it's gaining serious traction - if not always favour with one Mike Hosking.

"We are thrilled to work with innovative companies and brands like Procter & Gamble and SK-II, who are embracing technology to humanize brands at scale," Soul Machines co-founder Greg Cross told the Cannes audience as he introduced the AI infuencer.

"Yumi will become a trusted resource to those who interact with her. Customers will immediately notice how easy the Soul Machines digital humans are to converse with and relate to once they spend time interacting with Yumi."

"Yumi is more than a digital influencer. She is a digital human capable of interacting and engaging in ways technology hasn't been able to do until now," said Sandeep Seth, Chief Executive Officer, Global SK-II.

"Yumi personifies our goal to combine technology and creativity to benefit customers. She provides the warmth and connection of human touch in the form of a digital experience to make the overall skincare experience at home and in store more enjoyable and compelling. We're looking forward to customers being able to turn to her for skincare and beauty questions at any time of the day or night."