The virtual fire of the Metaverse is heated, and the virtual characters come into reality

Will virtual humans become mainstream?

ByteDance casts the virtual human “Li Weike”, will it play against Hatsune Miku with Luo Tianyi?

The virtual fire of the Metaverse is heated, and the virtual characters come into reality

On January 6, ByteDance invested in “Li Weike”. This “Li Weike” is not a real person, but a virtual person.

This is also the first virtual track financing at the beginning of the new year in 2022. According to the data from Tianyancha, the IP “Li Weike” belongs to Hangzhou Li Weike Co., Ltd., which was established only half a year ago.

Virtual characters themselves are not a new topic. Since the debut of the first virtual singer “Hatsune Miku” in 2007, this track has been a 15-year-old industry. However, with the maturity of AR and VR technologies, the virtual characters of the second dimension began to become more three-dimensional and real.

For example, Luo Tianyi once appeared on the Spring Festival Gala in 2021; “Liu Yexi” became popular almost overnight, relying on a video of more than two minutes, and gained 4.5 million followers overnight.

The application of virtual characters does not stop at entertainment. Some time ago, virtual student Hua Zhibing officially joined the school of Tsinghua University; Microsoft Xiaobing’s virtual person N Xiaohei can broadcast “Daily Economic News” for 70 consecutive days; CCTV also announced that it will use a virtual anchor to broadcast at the Winter Olympics news.

Especially under the heating of the virtual fire of the Metaverse, the virtual people poured into the real world all of a sudden.

When the circle is broken

The most mature development of virtual characters is in the field of pan-entertainment idols. In 2007, the first landmark virtual singer “Hatsune Miku” was born.

The core of the virtual idol at that time was actually a voice synthesis software, so although you could see a variety of different characters and images of Hatsune Miku, for senior fans, her voice was the most recognizable.

Hatsune Miku detonated the second-dimensional fans around the world at the very first appearance, and the concerts held in many countries were full. Even if most people don’t know her, they know that the song “Song of Shaking Onions” that broke the circle back then has more than 10 million hits on the Japanese barrage website niconico.

The influence of this two-dimensional girl idol is not inferior to that of a real idol. Hatsune Miku has already held a number of tours in China. The last “Hatsune Miku GALAXY LIVE” tour series has traveled to Shanghai, Guangzhou and other cities.Hatsune Miku now has 600 million fans around the world and is worth more than 10 billion yen.

The success of Hatsune Miku has made the country want to make its own virtual idol in the same way. In July 2012, Luo Tianyi was officially released. Like Hatsune, she is still an avatar based on the VOCALOID series of speech synthesis engines, and her development after her debut also focuses on singing and writing songs. In 2016, he appeared on the stage of the Hunan New Year’s Eve concert, and appeared in the mainstream vision for the first time. Appearing on the Spring Festival Gala in 2021 will push the exposure to the top.

The virtual fire of the Metaverse is heated, and the virtual characters come into reality

With the development of the times, virtual idols have also derived new ways: projecting real people onto virtual images through facial capture and motion capture technology, and every move, frown, smile, and dialogue of screen characters are completely from real people.

This is also the hottest mode at present. Fans vividly refer to the avatar as a “holster”, and the actor behind it is “the man in the middle”. In foreign countries, it mainly exists in the group of vtuber (virtual anchor), but after it spreads to China, it gradually begins to industrialize and form idol groups.

One of the most representative is the virtual idol girl group “A-SOUL” under Lehua Entertainment.

The virtual fire of the Metaverse is heated, and the virtual characters come into reality

A-SOUL debuted in November 2020 under the name of “Lehua Entertainment’s First Virtual Idol Group”. The members consist of five virtual girls, and each image has an exclusive Zhongzhi person behind it.

Just ten months after their debut, the five members’ accounts have over one million followers on Weibo and Station B. In the live broadcast of the birthday party on July 16, 2021, Bella, the head of the group, achieved the achievement of ten thousand ships, setting the record of the first in the virtual anchor area and the second in the history of station B.

On December 11 last year, A-SOUL held a live broadcast of its anniversary at station B. The momentum of the warm-up event is comparable to that of traffic stars: the bustling areas of major cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hangzhou have lit up large screens, and the promotional videos of five girls are played in a loop. On the day of the live broadcast, the number of reservations exceeded 120,000, and the popularity of station B remained above 10 million throughout the whole process, with a peak of 12 million. The popularity of the live broadcast that night topped the live broadcast list of the whole station.

The virtual fire of the Metaverse is heated, and the virtual characters come into reality

A-SOUL Anniversary City Light Show

On short video platforms, virtual idols have also become popular. On Halloween, October 31 last year, a virtual beauty blogger named Liu Yexi posted the first Douyin video. Immediately after 7 days, the number of followers increased by 4 million, which triggered a heated discussion of virtual idols as KOLs.

Whether it is live broadcast, short video or official stage, virtual idols are appearing more and more frequently in the public eye.

First attempt at commercialization

From the current situation, the business model of the virtual idol industry is being constantly tried. At present, most of the virtual image monetization channels are only live broadcast and brand cooperation.

At the 12th anniversary of Bilibili, CEO Chen Rui mentioned that in the past year, more than 32,000 virtual anchors have started broadcasting at Bilibili, a year-on-year increase of 40%. Virtual anchors have become the fastest growing category in the live broadcast field of Bilibili.

At station B, the captain is 198 yuan per month, and the monthly subscription price is also 138 yuan. The reward amount of real money can better reflect the value of the anchor than the number of fans and barrage. According to the data captured by the secondary metadata platform vtbs.moe, in the past year, the subscription rewards for virtual idols by users of station B increased by 350% compared with the same period of the previous year.

On July 16 last year, Bella, the captain of A-SOUL, held a live broadcast of her birthday party at station B. At that time, all members of A-SOUL broadcasted live at station B for only more than half a year, and Bella only had 250,000 followers. But on the night of the birthday party, a large number of fans flooded into the live broadcast room and made Bella directly achieve the ten thousand ships achievement, which is equivalent to one fan in every 25 followers who recharged Bella’s captain.

According to statistics from relevant websites, Bella alone created 2.33 million gift income in the nearly three-hour live broadcast.

The virtual fire of the Metaverse is heated, and the virtual characters come into reality

It is worth mentioning that as of now, there are only four anchors on station B who have achieved the 10,000-ship achievement, and virtual idols account for two of them. Under the Thousand People Fleet anchor rankings, the top two positions are also firmly occupied by virtual anchors at the same time.

In terms of brand cooperation, virtual idols have also shown potential.

The veteran virtual idol Luo Tianyi will appear in the Taobao live broadcast room to bring goods in 2020, with 2.7 million viewers and nearly 2 million people giving rewards and interactions. According to participating merchants, the cost of a live broadcast pit can be as high as 900,000. At present, the pit fee for ordinary anchors with goods is generally tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands. In contrast, Luo Tianyi is already considered the top of the line for carrying goods – you must know that Luo Yonghao’s first live show The pit fee is only 600,000.

Major brands regard virtual idols as golden signs. The grandfather of KFC transformed himself into a virtual “uncle cool”, reaping the hearts of 1.37 million fans on ins.

The domestic tea brand Nai Xue’s Tea has launched a virtual image ambassador “NAYUKI” to promote products through live broadcast of the virtual brand image. It is reported that it has achieved nearly 200 million GMV in 72 hours, which is equivalent to the sales of Nayuki’s tea stores nationwide in nearly a week. .

The popularity of virtual idols has also driven the upstream and downstream of the entire industry chain. It is understood that some science and technology companies that focus on motion capture technology and AI technology will usher in a wave of financing in 2021. In addition to ByteDance, well-known investors such as bilibili, Red Shirt Capital, and Rank Capital are all vying to enter the game.

According to iiMedia Research, the core market size of China’s virtual idols will reach 6.22 billion yuan in 2021, driving the surrounding market size to 107.49 billion yuan.

The virtual fire of the Metaverse is heated, and the virtual characters come into reality

Various major manufacturers have also deployed in fields other than entertainment. In November 2021, CCTV’s first sign language AI anchor officially debuted. She will start from the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics and will report for the hearing-impaired group all year round. Precise movements, real-time interpretation and no rest, this is the most important complement of virtual characters to real work. This virtual anchor landing on CCTV is provided by Baidu Intelligent Cloud’s “Digital Star Operation Platform” to provide technical support and services.

The virtual fire of the Metaverse is heated, and the virtual characters come into reality

Vanke also awarded last year’s Best Newcomer Award to its first digital employee, Cui Xiaopan. This virtual employee officially “joined” on February 1, 2021. With the blessing of the system algorithm, she quickly learned how to find problems in the process and data, and solve various problems with the efficiency that is thousands of times higher than that of humans. Receivable/overdue reminders and abnormal work detection are very useful. The write-off rate of prepaid and receivable overdue documents she urged reached 91.44%.

The market value of virtual humans is still being discovered slowly, and all parties are constantly trying their new possibilities in business.

The Real Dilemma of Virtual Idols

The development of virtual idols seems to be going smoothly, but there are still some limitations and problems behind it.

In an offline comic exhibition held at station B this year, A-SOUL’s booth was full of people, and the fanatical fans sang along with the idols on the screen, and even made a cry of “the next stop is the bird’s nest”. Being able to board the bird’s nest means that it has truly been recognized by the mainstream.

However, in the Lehua family concert on July 17, when he performed on the same stage with real-life traffic stars such as Wang Yibo and Wu Xuanyi, A-SOUL was booed by the audience for “embarrassment” and “go down”.

Ordinary audiences don’t seem to care about the villain who can only sing and dance on the screen. A-SOUL fans are indignant, puzzled, and a little discouraged. Many of them are beginning to understand that there is still a gap between being seen by the public and being recognized by the public.

The virtual fire of the Metaverse is heated, and the virtual characters come into reality

It is undeniable that virtual idols are active today, but there is still a question mark about their acceptance by ordinary audiences and the conversion rate of fans.

The production and operation costs of virtual idols are much higher than most people think.

According to iiMedia Research’s consulting data and industry insiders in an interview with 36kr, the production cost of a single virtual idol single in China is as high as 2 million yuan; the cost of a holographic virtual concert is about 20 million yuan. In contrast, Xue Zhiqian once revealed in the show that the production cost of a single song is about 1 million; the daily rental fee of the Bird’s Nest Stadium is 4.5 million, and the money for a holographic virtual concert can be opened for four days.

Although most of the virtual idols are backed by capital giants, such as ByteDance behind A-SOUL, and Tencent’s “Infinite Kings Group”… But such an expensive money-burning model also causes high entry barriers and difficult business closures The problem.

In addition, do virtual idols really not collapse?

Youzai-kun (pseudonym) is a professional painter and an old man in the two-dimensional circle. He stated to Zinc Finance that the popularity of virtual idols now is largely because of the reality behind the virtual.

“Real life is so tiring, and there is always an outlet where you need to talk about your stress. Can you find someone around you that you can talk about anytime, anywhere? Even if there is one, you are embarrassed to say it. But in the live broadcast room of virtual idols, everyone You can speak freely while wearing a mask. At the same time, you can also receive genuine advice, because the anchor is a real person in a leather jacket.”

The virtual fire of the Metaverse is heated, and the virtual characters come into reality

Jiaran reads the audience’s essay, turns around and weeps

This kind of virtual reality comes from the people behind it, but as long as someone sets it up, there is a possibility that the house will collapse.

In the memory of two-dimensional old people like Youzai-kun, the most impressive house collapse should be the incident of the Japanese virtual idol group hololive humiliating China.

In September 2020, vtuber Akai Shin and Kiryu Coco, both owned by hololive, described Taiwan as a country in the live broadcast room. Subsequently, all Japanese virtual idols at station B were banned for one month.

In the follow-up apology, Hololive’s attitude was not sincere, and there was even a “provocation” in the rebroadcast. This has stimulated the vast majority of Chinese fans, and the subtitle team has also deleted the manuscript and withdrawn from the circle. Youzai-kun said that at that time, many people completely gave up on virtual idols because of the collapse of the house, and never returned to the pit.

The virtual fire of the Metaverse is heated, and the virtual characters come into reality

In addition to their inappropriate remarks, virtual idols will lead to the collapse of their personalities, and they must always beware of the risk of being “skinned” collapsed. Once the mask is taken off, the mystery with the audience will cease to exist. If the contrast is too large, it will also cause resistance from fans. In Japan, there are many examples of uncles behind many virtual girl idols being picked up.

The virtual fire of the Metaverse is heated, and the virtual characters come into reality

This also led to another deeper thinking: Can the audience accept the iteration of the person in the middle? At present, this is still an unresolved pain point, and it is also a real problem that all virtual things need to explore.

Virtual idols may be moving towards the mainstream, but they are not yet top tier. The degree of breakage, cost and house collapse are all issues that cannot be ignored. At least for now, it’s just an electronic sheep in the dreams of many fans.

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