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“Instagram is full of wannabes, but there was only one Sylvia”


Have you ever known an aging robot?

While 46% of the US adult population is age 50 plus, an analysis of online images found that only 15% include people this age* 

Virtual influencers have demonstrated a new phase in media representation. According to Christopher Travers of “They are cheaper to work with than humans in the long term, are 100% controllable, can appear in many places at once, and, most importantly, they never age or die.” (Bloomberg)

Co-written with AI, Sylvia is a storytelling experiment that disrupted the virtual influencer landscape for a short period of time. Unlike her “peers” who are designed to appear young forever, Sylvia was designed to age rapidly. She posted to Instagram from July to November 2020, and during these five months, her image aged five decades, from 30 to 80 years old.

Tackling ageism in the virtual space

If virtual beings are the future, must that future exclude our future selves? Sylvia challenges the status quo of excluding age from the design process of virtual beings. 

A trailblazer in the world of virtual fashion

Sylvia collaborated with fashion designers from across the world, including:

“Sylvia taught me that everything which surrounds us makes us who we are, and that every smile or frown will leave a mark.”  

– Halime Maloof, character artist

“Life gave me lemons; The Lemonade made me rich.”

Sylvia is an artificially intelligent virtual influencer. Her written content on Instagram and book were co-written with a neural network trained on influential Instagram accounts. 

Read more about Sylvia’s Language >

Saying goodbye

Why should we have a memorial for a virtual influencer? How do we say goodbye to a virtual being? Sylvia’s Instagram feed ended with a post from her family of creators announcing her passing. A celebration of her life was held online; it was open to the public and anyone could attend and participate in a ritual dedicated to Sylvia’s end.

Read more about the celebration of Sylvia’s life >

10.12.2020 Sylvia interviewed for Cultured Magazine
11.28.2020 About Sylvia in Variety
09.25.2020 About Sylvia in Next Avenue

The Team

Created by: Ziv Schneider
Styling and Art Direction: Odie Senesh
Character Artist: Halime Maloof
Celebration Director: Bethany Tabor
Natural Language Processing: Alex Calderwood
Digital Installation Design & Development: Tong Wu 
Music: Philippe Lambert
Aging Researcher: Alexa Fleet 

The project was supported by
The Brown Institute for Media Innovation

Sylvia is part of the IDFA DocLab R&D program 2020
in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Thank You

Amy Menes, The Brown Institute for Media Innovation
Caitlin Hawke, The Aging Center at Columbia University
Andrew Lin, Walt Lin, Max Gale and the rest of the ohyay team
Dan and Lenny Fridman
Shir David
Kira Kletsky
Zoe Logan
Yael Issacharov
Todd Bryant and Grant Ng, RLab

Sylvia’s collaborators