According to Li Shiyan, head of Baidu’s virtual people and robotics division, companies can hire a virtual person for about $14k a year in China, and some of their customers include state media, local tourism boards, and financial services businesses.
Businesses in China are paying a lot of money for virtual workers in a variety of fields, including customer service and the entertainment sector.
The number of virtual persons projects that tech company Baidu has worked on for clients has doubled since 2021, with prices ranging from as little as $2,800 to an astounding $14,300 per year, according to the company.
With the use of machine learning, sound technology, and animation, virtual humans can sing, dance, and even engage in livestream interaction. These virtual people have been spotted on the edges of the American internet, but they have been increasingly seen in Chinese cyberspace.
According to Li Shiyan, head of Baidu’s virtual people and robotics division, some customers of virtual people include state media, local tourism boards, and financial services businesses.
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Costs have decreased by roughly 80% since last year as technology has advanced, he claimed. A three-dimensional virtual human costs roughly 100,000 yuan ($14,300) a year, whereas a two-dimensional one costs 20,000 yuan.
According to Li, the virtual person market would continue to expand by 50% yearly through 2025.
China is making significant efforts to create virtual people.
Beijing City unveiled a strategy in August to increase the value of the municipal virtual persons market to more than 50 billion yuan by 2025. The creation of one or two “leading virtual people businesses” with operating revenues of at least 5 billion yuan each was also demanded by the local authorities.
A thorough strategy for adopting more virtual reality, particularly in broadcasting, manufacturing, and other industries, was published by central government ministries last fall. More economic digitalization, including in virtual and augmented reality, was called for in the nation’s most recent five-year plan, which was unveiled last year.
Searching for scandal-free icons
From a business standpoint, a lot of attention is paid to how virtual people can produce content.
According to Sirius Wang, chief product officer and head of the Greater China marketplace at Kantar, brands in China are searching for substitute spokesmen after numerous celebrities have received bad news for tax evasion or personal problems.
According to a survey released by Kantar this fall, at least 36% of customers have seen a virtual influencer or digital star perform in the previous year. According to the survey, 21% of respondents had viewed a virtual person organise an event or deliver the news.
According to a Kantar survey, 45% of advertisers anticipate sponsoring a virtual influencer’s performance or inviting a virtual participant to a brand event by 2023.
Growing development of virtual people
Large Chinese tech firms have already started creating products for the virtual human market.
Video and game streaming app Bilibili was one of the earliest to take the concept of virtual people mainstream.
The business hired the team that created virtual singer Luo Tianyi, whose voice and image are entirely produced by technology. According to Bilibili, the developers spent the previous year concentrating on enhancing the voice texture of the computer-generated singer using an artificial intelligence system.
Luo Tianyi, who debuted in 2012, has close to 3 million fans and even performed in the Beijing Winter Olympics opening ceremony the year before.
Additionally, Bilibili features a large number of “virtual anchors,” or people who use special technology to directly interact with their audience through avatars. According to the corporation, since 2019, 230,000 virtual anchors have been broadcasting on its platform, and their broadcasting time increased by about 200% in 2022 compared to the previous year.
In its most recent results conference, Tencent stated that its Tencent Cloud AI Digital Humans division offers chatbots to industries including finance and tourism for automated customer care. The company’s Next Studios also created a virtual sign language interpreter and singer.
Additionally, much smaller companies are entering the market.
After finding success in the gaming sector with its cloud rendering technology support for Chinese video game producer miHoYo, startup Well-Link Technologies declared in late 2022 that it had created yet another model of a virtual person in a partnership with Haixi Media.