Virtual figures enter people's daily lives

(People's Daily Online) 15:28, May 11, 2023

Thanks to the development of technologies including artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR), virtual figures have become a part of people's daily lives in China.

A virtual figure attracts visitors at the achievement exhibition for the 6th Digital China Summit in Fuzhou, capital of southeast China's Fujian Province. (People's Daily Online/Wang Wangwang)

A digital avatar named Ai Wenwen at the National Museum of China has been programmed knowing the diverse cultural relics collected at the museum. The virtual figure co-developed by the museum and Chinese tech giant Tencent can offer different services to visitors, including tour guides.

In south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, a virtual replica of the local legendary folk song singer Liu Sanjie, meaning the third sister of the Liu family, can perform folk songs and talk about the region's scenic areas in multiple languages. It acts as a virtual ambassador to help promote the region's culture and tourism. Thanks to the application of technologies including AI, speech synthesis, facial modeling, and image processing, the virtual figure can provide convenient services to tourists, such as discussing local scenic spots, cultural venues, B&B hotels, food and specialties, as well as tour guide services and intelligent customer services.

Launching virtual figures featuring personalized services and wide application scenarios has become the new trend of the digital transformation in China's culture and tourism sectors. For example, Tianyu, a digital avatar modeled on the Flying Apsaras, a motif on murals at the Mogao Grottoes in Dunhuang, northwest China's Gansu Province, has been widely acclaimed since its launch.

Breakthroughs in technologies including machine learning and deep learning, as well as advanced 3D imaging sensors, better computing power and faster communication speed, provide technical support for the development of virtual figures, said Shen Yang, a professor with the School of Journalism and Communication at Tsinghua University.

Virtual figures have been used in culture, media, film, TV, and enterprise service.

The most widely used and popular virtual figures in China are divided into three categories: virtual idols, virtual employees and virtual anchors, according to a report issued by the state key laboratory of media convergence and communication of Communication University of China.

As the application scenarios expand, virtual figures will play a greater role in consumer goods, finance, real estate, property, education, culture, tourism and other service industries.

In 2022, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, the Ministry of Education and other three departments jointly unveiled an action plan to integrate VR with other industries between 2022 and 2026.

According to the action plan, by 2026, VR technology should be widely applied in major sectors of the economy and society, and that the new generation of humanoid terminals will become more diverse.

Industry insiders said virtual figures are offering more thoughtfully-designed and diversified services, and will bring new opportunities and challenges.

According to them, safeguarding the legitimate rights and interests of developers, operators and brands of virtual figures will further promote the sustainable development of the digital economy.

(Web editor: Hongyu, Du Mingming)


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