Digital people using a combination of animation, audio engineering, and machine learning are becoming increasingly popular in China. Providers can charge up to $14,000 a year for advanced avatars used in a wide variety of industries.
Business booming in China
Virtual employees, digital people, or avatars: In China, a thriving business has developed around the idea of providing companies with digital beings that interact with customers, appear in promotional materials, or otherwise promote themselves and their brand in Chinese cyberspace. As CNBC reports, the number of projects related to “virtual people” has doubled at the Chinese technology company Baidu.
For more and more companies in the country, it is considered good manners to be represented online by such a digital person. According to Baidu, its customers in this area primarily include financial services companies, local tourism authorities, and state media. In addition to being used in customer service, avatars are primarily used as digital brand ambassadors.
The product range extends from simple 2D avatars to 3D characters, which can be used in all possible areas with the help of complex animation and machine learning. Baidu gives a price of the equivalent of $2800 for its cheapest products, the top model among the digital people costs over $14,000 per year.
Just the beginning
Li Shiyan, head of Baidu’s “Virtual Humans and Robotics” division, sees a great future for his division, with his company expecting annual growth of 50 percent by 2025 alone. He is also receiving support from Chinese government officials. The city of Beijing alone announced that it wants to increase the virtual human industry to a value of more than $7.5 billion by 2025.
For the Chinese government, digital people who can be used in the media have another decisive advantage: In contrast to human colleagues, virtual media representatives are always guaranteed to remain scandal-free and loyal to the line. This fact, in turn, also appeals to Chinese brands: According to a survey, 45% of advertisers in China want to sponsor the appearance of a “virtual influencer” next year or invite virtual people to a brand’s event.