Written by Martina Popadakova

November 18, 2022 / 7 min. read

GRILLED by TechBBQ #02

Exclusive interview with Natalie Monbiot, Head of Strategy at Hour One

Web Summit connects people & ideas that change the world.

TechBBQ attended Web Summit, one of the world’s largest technology conferences, with over 71,000 attendees from 160 countries. The event gathered some of the most prolific personalities from the tech world, and an abundant amount of startups and investors. During the four days in 2022, November 1-4, we witnessed people connecting and exchanging ideas and listened to experts who shared their insights on global trends across different tech industries.

The Metaverse was one of the most talked about topics at the Web Summit, as leading guest speakers such as Naomi Gleit, Head of product at Meta, and Sebastien Borget, co-founder of The Sandbox explored the future of the Metaverse.

Debates spanning fashion, music, entertainment, and metaverse, it was worth stopping for a moment to hear insights on how the metaverse can drive our productivity in the workplace.

As our TechBBQ team members spread across the venue stretching to 204,386 square meters (1,046 tennis courts), I immersed myself in the debates on the virtual humans in the virtual world.

The "GRILLED by TechBBQ"-stories aim to inspire and connect Nordic audiences with voices from the global tech scene.

Exclusive interview with Natalie Monbiot,
Head of Strategy at Hour One

Natalie Monbiot is a pioneer in the field of virtual humans and Artificial Intelligence content. She is head of strategy and founding team at Hour One, a company putting virtual people to work.

A great number of curious people gathered around the stage to hear Natalie’s presentation on “Augmenting your work identity with virtual human technology,” showcasing how professional virtual identities are already complementing and improving in the workplace.

I have had the privilege to talk to Natalie, who explained in more detail how virtual humans or “digital twins” can work to our advantage.

Photo: Web Summit / PR

We think of ourselves as a virtual human company and we are trying to solve work problems and those problems are time. We want to help people to buy back time and we want to help people to become super communicators."

Q&A with Natalie Monbiot

1. Can you briefly introduce Hour One?
Hour One is an AI company specializing in the development of virtual humans for use in professional video communications. Hour One’s technology enables businesses to generate fully-produced videos automatically and in just a few minutes. Our virtual avatars can be deployed for e-learning, e-commerce, Saas, and other work-related content.

3. Tell us how it works and how you’ve benefited clients?
We take real humans and turn them into lifelike virtual avatars with human expressiveness that can be activated just from text. With our self-service platform, customers can either choose an available avatar or create a personal avatar that can be programmed to speak in any language.

Hour One helps to elevate the content and disrupts video production, so that anyone can make a video by typing into our browser essentially and then generating the video. We believe that it is useful because by having virtual people you can be more efficient and productive in your work.

2. What is Hour One trying to solve?
Virtual reality isn’t something that just a few people use. It's this friction where you need to wear headsets, and you have to be there. For us, when it comes to work, what you want is to delegate, and offload work, you want to buy time, and you don’t wanna be wearing a headset when you are working. That’s what we believe.

So, we create virtual people to help you get more stuff done and offload busy work. So for example, presenting content that you read off a teleprompter, or reading from the script. You don’t need to be there doing that, you can have your virtual twin do that for you.

In the meantime, you can be doing something else, something more creative or be having a conversation with people, building relationships, or spending time with your kids, whatever it is, anything but that. So you can offload work to a virtual twin.

4. What differentiates Hour One from competitors?
People are spending more and more hours on their phones, and it is interesting because it means maybe you don’t need to. Like a virtual world, you do not need to be in, you can just check in.

We think of ourselves as a virtual human company and we are trying to solve work problems and those problems are time. We want to help people to buy back time, and we want to help people to become super communicators. You could look much better and professional at all times, and you can create a really great video with yourself and with your virtual human in it with our tools and save time doing it.

So, we are trying to provide those tools to become super communicators at work. It relates to the metaverse and this idea of avatars and virtual media is a way pervasive and straightforward as a video. We are all about accessibility that anyone can use.

5. Where do you see the sector in the years ahead?
Where we see this going, is that virtual twins will engage with other virtual twins, in a more synced way of communication.

For example, you work with people in different time zones one evening in New York, and I’ll have my virtual twin creating videos, and then in the morning these videos might be an update, might be a presentation, might be brief for something. Then my colleagues in Israel, for example, can just get started on it and they understand the context because all the information is delivered in a way that is audio-visual.

I think we will see the further normalization of human-like avatars in everyday business settings as mentioned in the example above. As people further settle into virtual and hybrid work, they will seek practical ways to upgrade and scale their professional communication.

Hour One. Bringing the Human to the Virtual:

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