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This article is about one of the honorees of Fast Company’s first Next Big Things in Tech awards. Read about all the winners here.

A woman named Hepburn is on my screen speaking my words, warmly, professionally, smiling in a sharp blue blazer, like a TV reporter or one of those improbably clear-skinned creators who make their living on YouTube. Then there’s a small clue: she mispronounces COVID like Ovid. The truth is, Hepburn lives in the cloud, and had been summoned just a few minutes earlier by Oren Aharon, the CEO and cofounder of Hour One, a Tel Aviv-based startup that builds human-seeming avatars, each capable of speaking some 20 languages. Watching her, I can’t suppress a small laugh.

Hour One calls these deepfaked people “reals,” and without irony, because they are based on actual humans. Dozens of these talking heads are now doing tutorials, customer service, client presentations, interoffice communications, and silly videos on Cameo. Imagine a company-wide meeting, says Aharon: Why should the CEO record a presentation on video if his avatar can just do it? “You get something amazing in two minutes, you can send it to everyone, and nobody needs to waste their time,” he adds.

[Screenshot: Hour One]
“And of course, it’s not replacing any personal connection that they can also do,” cofounder and CTO Lior Hakim is quick to add. “But [real-world interactions] are not scalable, just by the fact that they’re bound by time and the physical aspect of, well, us.”