We get it. Tech is moving fast. From chatbots and conversational A.I. to automated video recruiting to the metaverse and more, it's exhausting to keep up. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but it's about to get a little more complicated. Meet Hour One, a company specializing in the development of virtual humans for use in professional video communications, including human resources. The company's head of strategy, Natalie Monbiot, joins Chad & Cheese for a wide array of questions, including Why waste your time on HR? Give your brain a good stretch, and let's do this.
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Oh yeah. What's up everybody? You know who it is. Your favorite meatheads, aka, the Chad and Cheese podcast. I'm your co-host, Joel Cheesman joined as always the Venus to my Serena Chad Sowash. And today we welcome Natalie Monbiot head of strategy at Hour One to the show. Natalie, welcome to the Chad and Cheese podcast. It's
It's Monbiot [Mon-bot]
Get this? Are we sure she's real?
I'm not sure.
Our listeners don't know yet, but, but Natalie basically is with a fake virtual human organization, so we're not quite sure if she's even real.
Chad (1m 0s):
Joel (1m 1s):
Natalie, are you there?
Chad (1m 2s):
Synthesized clones- that's what's synthesized clones.
Natalie (1m 5s):
Yeah. That's quite an introduction. Fake and virtual. Yes. So basically, yeah. My name is Natalie Monbiot, the irl. Me and my virtual alter ego has been known as MonBot for quite a few years now. Even predating Hour One. I've had a slight obsession with AI bots since the beginning. And in a way, what we're doing at Hour One is the kind of most advanced iteration of what AI bots can do.
Chad (1m 33s):
So you've manifested it is what you're saying.
Joel (1m 35s):
What is Natalie about? Let's figure that out before we get into the show. Natalie, give us a Twitter bio about you. What makes you tick?
Natalie (1m 43s):
Sure. Well, from a work perspective, I would say that everything emerging technology, I'm an emerging tech and communications buff. So how does AI and other emerging technologies, how does that shape, how we can communicate with each other in what might sound paradoxical in a more human kind of way? And I also, I am an avid outdoorsy person. I'm an adventurous skier. I play a lot of tennis. I sail and I have an 11 month old daughter.
Joel (2m 15s):
You sail. Talk about that. Where are you sailing to?
Natalie (2m 18s):
We just did a two day voyage, mini voyage with our baby to Block Island just off Long Island. So yeah, that's something very highly recent example.
Joel (2m 30s):
That sounds pleasant. Did you have a picnic when you got there?
Natalie (2m 32s):
We had all sorts of picnics, wine and cheese on a sailboat. We petted alpacas. We did it all.
Joel (2m 41s):
Chad (2m 41s):
That's pretty sexy, but not as sexy as 20 million in the bank or what It looks like $25 million in total Natalie. Hour One just received some, some new, new cash, new funding. What was that for? Tell us more about Hour One and then start tying in that funding. What are you guys looking to do? What is Hour One looking to do to be able to disrupt a lot of different industries?
Natalie (3m 12s):
Absolutely. So we are a virtual human company where we basically make virtual humans based on real people for the world of work. And we do this in order to be able to scale and improve communication. So instead of communicating in text form, which is how the majority of business is taken care of these days, people who don't have any production skills, don't have any tech skills, can basically generate content for their business to help them communicate better. Content that being video featuring virtual humans, which could be their own virtual twin or it could be a virtual twin for hire and we can talk a little bit more about that as well.
Natalie (3m 52s):
And we also set these virtual humans is something very new and ties into our investment into 3D immersive environments. So just from plain text, you can now generate immersive video experiences to engage your customers, to engage your employees in a very flexible and pretty instant way. So you type in some texts into our platform, you select a virtual human or an avatar, you select from a variety of 2D or 3D virtual templates or environments and you add in your imagery and you hit a button and a few minutes later you have these complete videos which are more engaging than kind of text-based communications.
Chad (4m 34s):
Well, welcome back to the Matrix kids and Joel, the virtual twin for hire had nothing to do with you.
Joel (4m 41s):
That's the blue pill.
Chad (4m 41s):
Okay. Just so that you know, the virtual twin for hire is not a thing.
Joel (4m 45s):
That'll be our little secret, Chad.
Chad (4m 48s):
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Using AI to be more human is what you guys have have championed. And, we believe that on our podcast, we've been talking about that for for years, but it might mean something different. So what does it actually mean to you and Hour One? How are you using AI and virtual humans to be more human?
Natalie (5m 8s):
I should probably start by saying the best way to communicate with somebody else is face-to-face in-person, live and, but that's not always possible or it's not scalable and the lacks flexibility and speed and the ability to translate content into different languages and all of that. So what we wanna do is be able to take some of the core elements of face-to-face communication and be able to scale that. And we use AI in order to do that. So you can basically, so how the AI works and how our platform works is you can just capture a little bit of footage of you or this is how we create some of our stock avatars.
Natalie (5m 48s):
We take a little bit of footage in video and we use that as the data from which to create your kind of virtual representation. And so there's AI involved in that.
Chad (6m 1s):
So training data?
Natalie (6m 2s):
Training data, exactly. And so, we take a little bit of footage and that becomes the training data for your virtual twin. So the AI is involved in generating your virtual twin. So that's sort of stage one of two of where the AI is really involved. And then stage two is the ability then to just through inputting lines of text to be able to generate new content as though you said it in front of a camera, but you didn't have to do that because that takes a really long time production, video production in the studio, you know, having to get actors, crew on location, shoot, reshoot, all of that is very time consuming and also very expensive and not very flexible.
Natalie (6m 42s):
So you can't update that content. So the ability to program your avatar to generate new content just from text also enables you to update and edit that content extremely flexibly. So you can keep your content fresh at all times.
Joel (6m 58s):
I'm really curious about the name Hour One. Is that like some 70 sci-fi movie hat tip that I wasn't aware of? Where'd the name come from?
Natalie (7m 9s):
It actually comes from a song by the Scorpions.
Chad (7m 10s):
Okay, I like it even more.
Joel (7m 12s):
I'm so glad I asked this question. Okay, go on, go on. Yeah. Song by the Scorpions.
Natalie (7m 17s):
It's basically that we are at the Hour One of sort of the future. So basically we're starting again in terms of what comes next. So it just felt like an apt name.
Joel (7m 27s):
Is this song called Hour One or is it a line in that?
Natalie (7m 29s):
I think it's called Hour One. I think it's called Hour One.
Joel (7m 32s):
Okay. I've got my homework ahead of me. Okay. Yeah, so we talked a lot of companies and know a lot of organizations that use video and recruiting, right? They're usually embedded into job descriptions. They're usually, you know, when you apply to a job, maybe a video from the hiring manager or who your boss might be, maybe a video from the CEO and the automated email that goes out to a an applicant. Those obviously have taken hold, but they tend to be organic in that it's real people at the company talking about, Hey, here's what I do for my job, or here's what you'll be doing for the company. You guys focus on HR. What are the case studies? What are the applications that are most prominent when you guys work with an organization in HR recruitment?
Natalie (8m 19s):
Yeah, so it's really at various stages of the HR experience. So starting with interviews or job posting, sorry. And as you say, embedding videos with each job listing. And that's something that is actually quite difficult to do if you have a lot of different job listings and you're posting new ones all the time. Now you have the ability to ingest the kind of the bullet points and you know, the key parameters from the job listing and convert that into a video presented by let's say your virtual HR representative. And it can be very on brand, tone of voice, the look and feel of the avatar that you've selected or that you even created for yourselves.
Natalie (9m 3s):
You know, your own company, virtual HR representative. And then you can also upload and in and integrate a lot of imagery and so you can bring to life the job listing, in a way that is, has not been possible before and to help you stand out basically from other companies. And you can make that very on brand. You can customize it, you know, your brand guidelines and all of that. So I'd say that's kind of the beginning stage. Then onboarding is another really popular area, the use of our technology because again, that's might be an area where there's just a lot of text and a lot of kind of a static experience and now you are able to upgrade that to make it more immersive and interesting presented by an on-brand character.
Natalie (9m 44s):
And then a lot of what we do as well is around learning and development. So that's kind of lot of dry content there that can instantly be lifted and made more immersive.
Joel (9m 54s):
Yeah, so UPS particularly upskilling is a hot topic in our space. So are these characters typically animated or are these real videos that are then sort of customized to what's being said or both?
Natalie (10m 6s):
So they, it's a really interesting question, like is it animated? Because I think that really gets to the core of content creation today.
Joel (10m 14s):
Well, cartoonish versus real life.
Natalie (10m 16s):
They're photo real. Our avatars or our virtual humans are photo-real and so they are designed to mimic a person's facial expressions, and mannerisms because we understand that that's, you know, a very powerful communications medium. So we wanna be photo-real then, cuz we also create the environments for the video, so the backgrounds, and that becomes a mix of animation and photo reel kind of borrowing a little bit from the latest in gaming, which is clearly, you know, very advanced computer graphics, but, photo-real as well. So it's kind of this blend I would say in the overall effect at this point.
Joel (10m 53s):
So an example of what a company could do if they were creative, let's say it's Progressive Insurance, I have Flo as my spokesperson, Flo could actually talk about a specific job and what they do embedded into a job description. That could be one creative way that a company could use your tool?
Natalie (11m 10s):
Exactly. So you, but you have IP like Flo, it's like how do you extend the IP of Flo and how do you embed her into a lot of different environments and all through, you know, various touchpoints of the company. And then you can also do things like have Flo speak in different languages to localize that content or have Flo create many different iterations of that job description. You can even be customized by name if you wanted it to be.
Joel (11m 39s):
How many languages do you guys support?
Natalie (11m 41s):
Joel (11m 41s):
Natalie (11m 41s):
We can do, which is basically if there's any language that you wanna do, we can pretty much do it at this point.
Joel (11m 49s):
You guys recently launched, I guess, a news reading solution. What's your goal there? Like are we gonna end up going to channels and just seeing virtual humans read the news at some point? Or is there sort of a unique way that you're rolling this out to the world?
Natalie (12m 2s):
Funny you should ask that. We actually already do have, we've partnered with a news company called Defiance Media and they've actually been using our virtual human newscasters for a year already. And so that element of using a virtual human in news isn't necessarily new, but what we've just launched is a 3D news environment. So now you can customize any sort of 3D experience and it can be, it mimics a traditional news environment, right? You know, when you're watching, you know, news on whatever channel that happens to be on TV broadcast news.
Natalie (12m 44s):
So it mimics that, but actually there's greater flexibility because you can customize it and do things that aren't possible in reality because now we have these tools at our disposal to be able to animate and get more creative than ever. So yes, so we do expect, and we do already have news media customers and the benefit to them is they can stream news and they do every two hours around the clock. And that is something that would've been impossible for many reasons using live human news anchors. So they've actually created their own news anchor and they're also integrating kind of a futurist who's a real person in real life and then they're also, you know, leveraging him as a virtual twin within their content.
Natalie (13m 25s):
So it's pretty interesting and kind of blurry. But I wanted to add to that is that's the news environment being used literally for news. But if you are a company and you know, the HR department wants to be able to present information in a way that is more creative and interesting and immersive. A company can create their own virtual newsroom or virtual news desk and that's just kind of becomes an ownable format in which to deliver information.
Chad (13m 53s):
So why HR? You mean you've got these great marketing applications where you could go and prospectively scale Flo or a gecko or, I mean there are a hell of a lot of other, other ways to go out there and make the big money because the marketing has the big money. HR does not have the big money, not to mention HR is slow to adoption. Then you have this news piece where the obviously local and evening news, they want better ways to scale and to obviously grow market and margin. So why are you even messing around with HR in the first place?
Natalie (14m 31s):
That's really interesting. So basically we see HR as a place where there is a lot of flat content that can be transformed very quickly into something that is more immersive and interesting. And we do see quite a bit of demand for that. The other thing that's interesting about it is it's, while we do engage a number of different verticals outside of HR like news, as you, you mentioned HR is a horizontal function versus, you know, a verticalized function. So it's almost like every company of a certain size has HR and has HR needs. So it's sort of this interesting horizontal and we built some very simple tools designed to make it as easy as possible for an HR department that doesn't have, cuz we're really targeting people that don't have production or kind of digital skills necessarily, or developer skills.
Natalie (15m 26s):
So we see HR as kind of being that kind of fitting that sort of profile.
Chad (15m 31s):
HR is also seen as a cost center. So that's also a negative. But you know, many startups are creating solutions to problems that HR doesn't even believe exists because the pretty much the type of traction you need and adoption for HR usually is about five to seven years behind the curve. So what in the current landscape told you this was the market that you needed to try to crack and would they pay for it?
Natalie (16m 0s):
Yeah, well I think it's really that we've seen response. So we've seen HR departments actually respond and say they want this. So I wouldn't say that we necessarily kind of went out expressly to engage HR. We actually been engaging a number of different verticals ranging from e-commerce to actually e-learning is really where we've had a lot of early success and kind of upgrading e-learning content to keep, to basically scale instructor-led content and then kind of as a result of that learning and development seems a sort of a natural extension just by kind of being out there. And, we've found that pretty large, kind of pretty conservative seeming companies have actually seen what we're doing and have actively and proactively engaged us for HR needs.
Natalie (16m 45s):
So one of the largest health insurers in Europe, as an example, came to us and wanted to basically create more engaging onboarding materials, more engaging ways to invite employees into upskilling programs and to kind of personalize those programs more. So that's, you know, an opportunity that just came to our way without us, you know, having thought of it before. And another one, Israel's largest shipping company as well, had similar needs. So it's really that it's emerged that way and that's why we've kind of seen it as an opportunity to keep pursuing.
Joel (17m 20s):
So you talk about being more engaging and it strikes me that a dialogue is more engaging than a monologue. When do you guys get to the point where I can have a conversation with one of your virtual assistents I guess, or people, or is that something that you're not interested in doing? Certainly we've seen chatbots in our space where it's more of a conversation, right? It may be text-based, but it's a little bit more engaging that way where this is sort of a sit back and be spoken to. Where do you sit on being more of a dialogue that versus a monologue?
Natalie (17m 50s):
Yeah. So, that's totally right. We started in video and it's a bit more of a sit back experience, but certainly on our roadmap and our immediate roadmap is to create more of an interactive experience. And the way that we're doing that is we're becoming much more real time in our ability to generate videos from text. And I know you've interviewed very recently, you know, a chatbot company and you obviously know a lot about this space and you also know that a lot of these ai chatbot companies, it's not necessarily that they're inventing content on the fly, you know, these are decision trees with a lot of permutations and options within that decision tree. And so if we can just be quick enough to be able to generate the content, the video content to populate those decision trees, that's actually something that we can already do and already sort of doing in places is to integrate with some of these chatbot companies to be able to deliver a video base interactive experience.
Natalie (18m 47s):
So definitely something that we were starting to do and that is coming.
Joel (18m 50s):
So, the metaverse has gotten a lot of attention everywhere and I sense that a metaverse taking off would be really good for your company. Talk about how your product would engage or integrate with the Metaverse, if at all.
Natalie (19m 7s):
Yeah, so Metaverse is really interesting, an interesting theme that's come up in the last sort of 18 months I'd say, where I think it's driven a lot of acceptance for what we do this suddenly just like avatars. But of course, I mean it's, you know, people don't question the idea of kind of avatars in our lives because everyone's bought into this notion of the metaverse and avatars are essentially the protagonists of the metaverse. That said, I think people are kind of have got really obsessed with the metaverse without really thinking about what it's for and how useful it can be and, the kind of why of how you would deploy the metaverse in a way that's truly gonna help grow your business. So where we kinda look at it is we're the metaverse for work. If you're kind of looking at the metaverse as a whole and the metaverse, you know, is a kind of a nebulous thing and many people, you know, many companies have their own definitions for it, but in many cases it's a first person experience, which is largely around entertainment.
Natalie (19m 60s):
So you want to be immersed in this content, you want to be this fantastical creature because you are in this fantastical storyline if it's a game or some other kind of entertainment based metaverse experience. But then if you think about work, and that's what we're really focused on is virtual humans in the world of work, you as a human being don't want to spend all of your time kind of hanging out in a virtual world when you could be getting shit done outside of that. And so it's like, but what you would like to do is delegate to somebody else, delegate to your virtual twin. So that's kind of our position on it. It's like you create a virtual twin that can carry out certain tasks for you. And today what your virtual twin can do is it can go off into the virtual world or into the digital world and it can do things for you, like do routine presentations or answer routine questions, things that you- you and all your full kind of human faculties and you know, your full human creativity and potential is not required to execute those tasks.
Natalie (20m 60s):
So you can essentially delegate stuff to your virtual twin while you can basically do things which are uniquely human and this is all, you know, within the work context, handle sensitive negotiations, build relationships, all of these things. So in our view of the metaverse for work, you don't want to be immersed in this, you know, in the metaverse yourself as the human, you wanna be able to delegate to this virtual twin. So that's kind of how we look at it and we're constantly building towards enabling your virtual twin to do more things for you in a way that represents you very well.
Chad (21m 33s):
So how genuine is that though? I mean, if I want to have engagements and interactions with actual people, whether that it is, you know, meeting in real life or in the metaverse, I mean, if I'm just interacting with literally a chatbot, a decision tree, how genuine is that and how's that gonna look to my brand if I feel like I'm actually engaging with a hollow quote unquote "virtual human"?
Natalie (21m 60s):
Yeah, that's a really important question in that, you know, people are gonna be, if they were previously getting to interface with you and suddenly it's like, speak to my virtual twin, you know, that's not a good experience for that person. So what we're always trying to do is basically upgrade something that would be text, let's say, and to be able to upgrade that into an experience which is more interesting and immersive. So people are getting more than what they were getting before or they're getting more of your presence or you are able to generate more talks and more presentations and more content, which wouldn't exist otherwise. The other thing is certainly I would say from a tech perspective and also from just like a conceptual perspective, you're not really trying to pretend that your virtual twin is you, it's an extension of you and it's a representative of you.
Natalie (22m 49s):
But our guidelines are to disclose that this is a virtual twin.
Chad (22m 51s):
How do you lock that down? That's, that's the big question, right? So let's say for instance, I have a virtual twin. I'm the only one who has access on the platform, but yet, I mean I wanna delegate it so I want, you know, maybe admins or what have you to use it. How do you lock something like that down? Yeah, to ensure just doesn't get outta hand.
Natalie (23m 12s):
So I mentioned at the beginning that we're kind of building this virtual human economy and as with any economy there are legal frameworks and commercial models involved. If you have a virtual twin with us, we basically, you'll sign an agreement with us, which first of all allows, gives us the permission as a company to create your virtual twin with the data from your video shoot as a bill to that agreement. There will be permissions granted as to who can make that content using a virtual twin. So it could be just you, it could be your team, it could be specifically approved people. So in a way it's not so different from, you know, you are an exec, you know, high level executive and you have an admin who writes some emails for you and you basically authorize that admin to make to write those emails for you.
Natalie (24m 2s):
So this is kind of a build on that.
Joel (24m 4s):
Well, well I for one will be first in line when you create the zoom call doppelganger where I don't have to sit on mindless zoom calls all day. Anyway you talk about passive income on the site and it sounds like you're gonna be able to roll out virtual yous in a bunch of different languages and be able to scale this for celebrities and people that make money for who they are. Talk about the passive income opportunity at Hour One.
Natalie (24m 33s):
Yeah, so basically we have these stock virtual humans, some of which you see on the website and these people have signed an agreement with Hour One, whether essentially our virtual talent and brands that you know, wanna make videos on our platform, they can select from these virtual humans. And when videos are made featuring these virtual humans, the real people behind them actually get paid a small fee. So this is the passive income. So they do one shoot, they sign an agreement with us, and within business context, ones in which Hour One operates such as HR, such as some news media such as e-commerce, then they basically get paid a passive income. And these are kind of everyday people who are not professionals, they're not known, they're basically the equivalent of animated stock characters.
Natalie (25m 20s):
And then we also have is, you know, specific people can start like creators. So I think this is a space that is gaining a lot of interest and feel, you know, in the past year, again, there's a lot more acceptance towards this idea of, again, I think probably thanks to the metaverse, the idea that you will have a virtual you and you can operate this virtual you to help you with your business as a creator or as a celebrity. So one guy Ian B. Craft, he's a, you know, he's a futurist and he's a busy guy, obviously this is his territory. He's, you know, a futurist, he is very interested in AI and virtual humans and all of that. But, his virtual human has essentially been hired by Defiance Media, which is the news company that I mentioned earlier.
Natalie (26m 3s):
And every week he does a news segment and he does, you know, the tech update for Defiance Media and it's his virtual human doing it. He actually writes the script and he goes in the platform and he kind of assembles the video in a few minutes. And actually there was one, I think it was just posted earlier today, a six minute segment on everything that's going on in emerging tech, AI, and the world of virtual humans
Chad (26m 30s):
OOH. Virtual twins, avatars, clones synthesized humans. It's a cool and kind of scary world out there kids.
sfx (26m 35s):
Doesn't anyone notice this? I feel like I'm taking crazy pills.
Chad (26m 41s):
That's Natalie Mombiot. I think it's MomBot. She's ahead of strategy at Hour One. Natalie, if somebody wants to find out more about Hour One or maybe even connect with you, where would you send them?
Natalie (26m 52s):
Sure, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can find us on LinkedIn and on Twitter mainly.
Joel (27m 3s):
Chad, that is another one in the can. Beep poop beep. We out.
Chad (27m 8s):
We out. I'm out.
OUTRO (27m 7s):
Thank you for listening to, what's it called? The podcast with Chad, the Cheese. Brilliant. They talk about recruiting. They talk about technology, but most of all, they talk about nothing. Just a lot of Shout Outs of people, you don't even know and yet you're listening. It's incredible. And not one word about cheese, not one cheddar, blue, nacho, pepper jack, Swiss. So many cheeses and not one word. So weird. Any hoo be sure to subscribe today on iTunes, Spotify, Google play, or wherever you listen to your podcasts, that way you won't miss an episode.
OUTRO (27m 51s):
And while you're at it, visit www.chadcheese.com just don't expect to find any recipes for grilled cheese. Is so weird. We out.