In China, for $14,000 a year, companies can “employ” a virtual employee.
In 1968 it came out 2001, a space odyssey by Stanley Kubrick. We discovered the HAL 9000, a killer supercomputer, equipped with a artificial intelligence. If this “sixth member” of the crew of DiscoveryOne it seemed like wilder science fiction then, working with him virtual employees is now common practice in China.
Employees without flesh and bones but in 3D
From customer service to the entertainment industry, Chinese companies are spending a lot of money to afford the services of virtual employees. Thus, the technology company Baidu reported that the number of orders for “digital avatars” had doubled since 2021. “Financial services companies, local tourist offices and state media – all employ some type virtual people said Li Shiyan, head of virtual human and robotics business at Baidu.
As technology improves, profitability increases. Li Shiyan shows that Prices of virtual workers have fallen about 80% since last year. It now costs about 100,000 yuan ($14,300) a year to hire a three-dimensional virtual person, while a two-dimensional one costs about 20,000 yuan ($2,900).
China accelerates recruitment of virtual workers
And the development of virtual workers is advancing rapidly. The city of Beijing recently announced a plan to expand the employment of virtual people to 50 billion yuan by 2025 (about 7 billion dollars). For their part, in continuation of the last five-year plan that includes the digitization of the economy and the increased use of virtual reality and augmented reality, central government departments are also planning to integrate more virtual workers into their departments (broadcast, production, etc.). Optimistically, the head of Baidu expects the virtual person industry to grow by 50% annually until 2025.
A social trend that is spreading
We should also point out that in the search for alternative spokespeople many Chinese brands use digital avatars. A choice that reflects the need for security “as many celebrities have recently encountered negative press related to tax evasion or personal scandals,” says Sirius Wang, product director and head of China market at Kantar. A trend that seems to have been adopted by civil society as well. Indeed, according to MEDIA CNBC which mentions an investigation of Kantarat least 36% of consumers have seen a virtual influencer or digital celebrity perform in the past year.
One of the most famous of them is none other than a virtual employee ofAli Baba, known as Ayayi. “Have you considered that maybe meta humans don’t need to work?” “, she launched on her birth in May 2021. Her face may be unfamiliar to you, but the young woman is already the face of brands like Guerlain and Bose. Available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with her there are neither dangerous statements, nor drug scandals, nor tax evasion… In short, the ideal employee.
According to the Kantar report, 45% of advertisers said that in 2023 they could sponsor the performance of a virtual influencer or invite a virtual person to join a brand event.