Web3 not only has NFT avatars, but also the traffic of virtual digital people.
May 20th is AYAYI ‘s birthday, this long-legged beauty with short silver hair and a delicate face just turned 1 year old. At first glance, she looks no different from other young and beautiful bloggers, and only after careful identification can she see the traces of 3D modeling – AYAYI is a hyper-realistic digital human “fabricated” out of thin air.
On May 20, 2021, AYAYI released the first note “hi, first meeting” in Xiaohongshu. The photo of the front of the picture is very amazing, and it was spread all over the Internet. As of now, this note It has nearly 110,000 likes and continues to receive comments to this day.
However, if you look closely at the recent comments, you will find that there are many new fans who came to “Archaeology”, who regretfully expressed that “high opening and low walking”, “the gap between (and now) is too large”, “(now the current) face) is not delicate enough”. The pity doesn’t stop there. In the past year, AYAYI has released more than 100 notes, including life photos, magazine blockbusters, and advertising endorsements. The number of likes and comments has visibly decreased. The notes released on May 20 this year only have more than 100 likes. .
Embarrassment also happened to other avatars. A-SOUL , a virtual idol group with the slogan “Never Collapse” , ushered in a collapse earlier than expected. A few days ago, member Jiale announced the “live dormancy”, that is, the termination of daily activities. The reason is suspected that Jiale’s live-action actor (known in the circle as “the person in the middle” ) suffered from the company’s oppression and unfair treatment. After that, the company announced the termination of the contract with Jiale’s Zhongzhiren, which caused a huge storm. Many fans said that “the world is falling”, and A-SOUL’s B station account lost 60,000 followers overnight. After Jiale left, the image and commercial value of A-SOUL became unknown.
01 How do virtual people become internet celebrities?
Last year, the presence of virtual humans in China was overwhelming. On the one hand, the technology gradually matured, and production and operation companies poured into the market. On the other hand, it was also related to the suspension of talent shows and the scandals of many celebrities. The virtual people with perfect appearance and excellent business ability took advantage of the situation to snatch the jobs of idols and Internet celebrities.
Although the concept of virtual human is new, the business operation routine is actually quite “traditional”. Either by creating an Internet celebrity blogger, quickly attracting fans and monetizing quickly, and then quickly abandoning after the traffic is exhausted; .
Virtual humans like AYAYI, which are completely generated by AI, rely on their faces to eat with their appearances that are very similar to real humans. They are active on social platforms as bloggers. Most of them start from fashion, beauty, clothing and other low-threshold and high-traffic fields, and publish some photos or videos of “everyday life” to enrich their personalities and maintain their attention. . After the traffic has accumulated to a certain level, you can receive advertising endorsements.
The leader of this kind of virtual person is Lil Miquela . The 19-year-old robot, who claims to live in LA, has more than 3 million followers on Instagram alone , and is endorsed by fashion brands such as Prada , Chanel , and Supreme . It is estimated that his annual income is around 2 million US dollars, and his business value exceeds 10 million US dollars. .
Lil Miquela ‘attended’ Givenchy event
However, the domestic online celebrity ecology and content consumption habits are quite different from those in the European and American markets. There are thousands of good-looking bloggers, even virtual people, if they don’t have more talents, it is very difficult to maintain the stickiness of fans. However, the expressions and movements of hyper-realistic avatars have to undergo a lot of calculations, and the production time is long and the cost is high, making it difficult for them to perform complex “performances” and to update the content frequently. This is also one of the reasons for the embarrassing situation of AYAYI mentioned at the beginning of the article.
In contrast, the motion capture virtual human represented by A-SOUL has more flexible and rich personality characteristics and facial expressions, and can also meet the needs of real-time interaction. Therefore, at present, this type of virtual person is often active on the live broadcast platform, and the duration, frequency, and content of the live broadcast can be the same as the live broadcaster. Bella , a member of A-SOUL, is the first virtual anchor of station B to achieve the achievement of ten thousand ships (the captain is the paid VIP of the anchor of station B, with a unit price of 198 yuan), with an equivalent income of more than 2 million yuan.
After the virtual idol has a certain popularity, it also opened up the market for derivatives. The predecessors of the virtual idols , Hatsune Miku, Luo Tianyi, etc., with years of accumulation, through concerts, IP authorization, and peripheral products realization, and successfully moved from the two-dimensional niche culture circle to the mainstream platform.
Luo Tianyi on CCTV Year of the Ox Spring Festival Gala
Similar to the living environment of real idols and Internet celebrities, the circle of virtual people is also very rolled up.Since the concept of virtual humans became popular in 2021, dozens of virtual human accounts have been added every month on platforms such as Douyin and Xiaohongshu. They are all the same in name, shape and content, and they are quickly hidden in the torrent of the Internet. And some practitioners who want to operate virtual human IP for a long time have begun to explore differentiated operation methods.
02 Begin with appearance, be loyal to talent
As mentioned earlier, the domestic online celebrity ecology is different from overseas, and consumers do not buy into the face-pinch and dress-up virtual people of “famous for nothing” . To borrow a phrase from the fan circle, “begin with appearance and be loyal to talent”.
Therefore, the human design will ultimately fall on the output of valuable content. Compared with real idols or Internet celebrities, the character design of virtual people is a blank sheet of paper. The creative team can design the background of the characters from scratch, and even put on a set of world views, which is its most obvious advantage. Based on this, the operators behind the virtual human are trying to explore different ways.
Liu Yexi , who is out of the circle, is positioned as a “beauty expert who can catch monsters”, creating a precedent for virtual human actors to debut. This beauty blogger does not try makeup or teach, but “makes movies”. Liu Yexi’s Douyin short series “The Earthly Branches” has a grand world view setting, supplemented by suspenseful and thrilling plots and excellent special effects production. It has accumulated 300 million views in 6 episodes, making fans say “I am in Douyin to watch movies” sigh. Its production team even planned a Marvel-style universe view, planning to let virtual people in different universes interact with each other and integrate them under one parent universe.
However, this model is extremely risky. The production cost of a single episode of Liu Yexi’s video exceeds 1 million, but the word of mouth often fluctuates, and it is the biggest problem to grasp the audience’s taste. The second virtual person Yukatana launched by the team is even more in a tepid state. The character design, modeling, story setting and other aspects have been criticized by some netizens, although relying on “connecting the universe” with Liu Yexi While gaining some attention, it was unable to replicate the myth of the predecessors.
Liu Yexi’s “Junior Sister” Yukatana
There are also avatars that are making money in more hardcore content areas. The Guochao virtual person Bai Zhilai, whose popularity has risen rapidly recently on Douyin, has seized the track of knowledge bloggers. Bai Zhilai inherits the worldview of traditional Chinese culture and is “Bai Ze, an ancient mythical beast who lives in seclusion in the world “.The video it released interprets traditional culture through Bai Zhilai’s daily life fragments, including hard-core cold knowledge. This form of entertaining has attracted a group of young people who are interested in traditional culture research. Recently, Bai Zhilai’s team also launched another virtual human, Chunshen Jumang , and the ancient fairy universe seems to be gradually being built.
Different from beauty, dressing and other tracks, Bai Zhilai’s team chose to cut into the knowledge track, which is more difficult to operate. Whether the knowledge is accurate, whether the information is comprehensive, and whether the opinions are pertinent are the problems that all knowledge science bloggers have to face, and virtual people are no exception, so they need to be carefully polished by a professional team. In terms of content realization, it is also more difficult than other fields. However, vertical in-depth content can also become a barrier for virtual humans and generate differentiated value. This type of content is more irreplaceable and difficult to be quickly copied by other teams; consumers attracted by the content are also more likely to become sticky and create more high-quality UGC content in the interaction. Observing Bai Zhilai’s Douyin comment area, you can find that there are many experts in the audience who have insight into traditional culture and ancient classics, and they are also important participants in Bai Zhilai’s universe.
03 Open the entrance to the Metaverse, then what?
One view in the industry is that virtual humans are the entrance to the Metaverse. Today, however, practitioners face a situation where the entrance is erected and the house is not visible.
The Metaverse itself is in the exploratory stage, the landing scene and business model are immature, and the time has not yet come for the virtual human to play a big role. Therefore, no matter what kind of technology and what kind of operation mode, most of the current virtual people still have to rely on the Web 2.0 platform, so their business logic cannot jump out of the rules of existing media, such as algorithm recommendation, such as e-commerce delivery. This is why, in the eyes of many consumers today, the virtual person is a bit like old wine in a new bottle, and is “not much different from the traditional idol net red except for the face.”
If you only indulge in monetizing traffic on existing media, then virtual humans are not a cost-effective business in terms of cost. Why hold on? Some thoughtful practitioners have taken a longer-term view.
Those with deep pockets, such as SM , a well-known Korean entertainment company , have deployed XR, blockchain, NFT and other technologies, built a Metaverse space KWANGYA , and launched the “Metaverse girl group” to strongly connect the real world with the Metaverse world. The members of its virtual human group ae correspond one-to-one with the real-life group AESPA , and the two parties work together to complement the entire world view, which can be said to have indeed played the role of the entrance to the Metaverse.
AESPA and its digital counterpart
More practitioners are still standing in a link in the industry chain to promote the development of virtual human ecology.Liang Ningning, founder of Baizhilai operation team , Youji Interactive , said in an interview with Silicon Rabbit Race: “I hope that through the development of the virtual publishing track, we can bring the original virtual content into the Metaverse with the help of virtual people, and form a rich ecology in the vertical field. She believes thatoperating virtual humans in Web 2.0 today solves the problem of food and clothing, and the vision should still be placed on the future to build a channel to the Metaverse. Even if the form of the future Metaverse is different from today, if Bai Zhilai can become the trailblazer, he will still be proud.
Today, countless avatars and the teams behind them trace what the Metaverse looks like. Just as the Web 2.0 era has just arrived, some attempts may be failed and ridiculous in the eyes of future generations, but it is because of continuous trial and error that today’s prosperity is shaped. Where will virtual humans go in the future? Imagination may be its greatest frontier.
Mad Men: SM Entertainment, From AESPA to SMCU, What Does the Metaverse Mean?
iiMedia Research: 2022 China Virtual Human Industry Commercialization Research Report
Source of cover image: lujuba.cc
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