Ellen looks pretty much like what you’d expect a child influencer to look like. She has blue hair and likes hanging around windmills and famous Finnish people. She, of course, has her own Instagram. But the thing is, Ellen doesn’t exist. She’s an AI creation, the brainchild of Finnish photographer Antti Karppinen.
Ellen was created by Karppinen for Finnish energy giant Helen. The company wanted a children’s character called Ellen that would make it easier to talk to kids about energy and electricity.
“Energy future affects children and young people above all,” the company’s webpage reads. “Energy is important to all of us, but it does not need to be difficult. Our mission is to make energy easy to understand for everyone, because only by increasing understanding can we establish hope as we go through the energy transition.”
The company also published a booklet in English that aims to explain energy to kids. But for Karppinen, the challenge was creating a realistic character.
The artist explains:
We also had to bring Ellen to life and make her appear as realistic as possible, so I started sketching ideas for the character in AI. Once we had the main features down, I created a personalized AI model to make Ellen versatile enough to fit into various situations and environments. We even had Ellen pose for some real-life photographs with Helen employees and the amazing iconic Finnish actress Seela Sella, who is the godmother of the children’s book. To get a life-like character as possible I used Stable Diffusion AI with ControlNet to get full control over the character with my own personalized AI model.
This isn’t Karppinen’s first AI stunt. In fact, the photographer says that currently, 80% of his work is AI-related. He says the potential of image synthesizers is huge, particularly when it comes to more illustrative images and illustrations.
But this work also raises ethical and societal questions, especially as AI-generated characters like Ellen grow increasingly indistinguishable from real people. As the boundary between artificial and human intelligence blurs, one has to wonder about the implications of AI-created influencers like Ellen.
One of the most immediate concerns is authenticity. While the character of Ellen is transparently disclosed as a digital creation by Finnish energy giant Helen, the question remains: Will all companies and creators be as forthright about the origins of their AI characters? The potential for deceit is high, especially when these lifelike figures are used to influence public opinion or market products.
Initiatives like Ellen offer an innovative approach to educating the public, particularly the youth who will inherit this planet. But, as with any technology, the devil is in the details. Ensuring transparency, ethical guidelines, and responsible use will be key in determining whether AI-generated influencers like Ellen serve as a force for good or rather for disinformation.