CANNES — As Cannes Lions played host to plenty of discussions about the role of artificial intelligence in advertising and marketing, many might have wondered how far off some of the technologies may be.

Certainly, tools like 3D brand avatars imbued with lifelike emotions and empathy may seem far-fetched. But they are real, here and now, said one pioneer pitching the tech to advertisers today.

“This technology is available today,” said Mark Sagar, CEO of Soul Machines, a company responsible for the systems. “We could basically replicate any person.”

By that, Sagar means, the 3D technology his company built, originally for movie studios to bring characters to life, how moved beyond animation itself – now, those 3D character models are getting injected with algorithmic profiles that mimic human emotions, ticks and responses, even to viewers they can see through their own digital cameras.

And Sagar thinks brands could use the same tech to bring brand avatars to life.

“It could be a celebrity, it could be a spokesperson or whatever,” he said. “If you think about how you approach representing a brand when you get a celebrity … you’re embodying their traits in that. We can bring them to life and have them interact.”

This is a world away from optimising display ads’ click-through engagement. In this future world, an army of technologies would be deployed to mimic human characters employed to interact in lifelike conversations with customers and prospects. It’s a closing of the gap that Sagar thinks will yield results.

“When you interact, you invest,” he added. “You start personalising things. You can have a spokesperson or representative of a particular brand have a relationship with you – it will remember you, your preferences, adapt its behaviour.

“You start forming a stronger relationship with the brand in that way. By adding life to things, we can’t ignore it.”

This video is part of Beet.TV’s AI Series from Cannes Lions 2017, presented by The Weather Company, an IBM Business. For more from the series, please visit this page.