Author: Shenyang, Professor, School of journalism, Tsinghua University; You Keke, a postdoctoral fellow of School of journalism, Tsinghua University
Recently, driven by the concept of meta universe, the market of virtual digital people has been heating up rapidly. From the virtual singer Luo Tianyi, to the digital virtual idol Liu Yexi, to the virtual idol group a-soul, various virtual digital people frequently appear in the public eye. What is a virtual digital person? What is the development status of virtual digital human industry? What are the problems to realize large-scale landing?
Virtual digital human is a digital image created by aggregating technology, which exists in the virtual world and has human like characteristics. It is the main carrier of virtual space-time perception by natural people in the meta universe, and also an important part of the economic value-added plate of the meta universe.
From the perspective of technological development, virtual digital people will become the main interactive interface of the Internet. At present, the Internet entrance is mainly in the form of characters, graphics, images and other media. In the meta universe, the interactive objects are presented in three-dimensional form. As a three-dimensional aggregative medium, virtual digital human can meet the needs of human interaction in the future. Virtual digital people can understand, generate and talk to the knowledge field, and deal with affairs in batches, thus greatly improving people's production efficiency, perception ability and execution effectiveness.
Different from the previous technology, virtual digital human and natural human have high similarity. With the development of artificial intelligence, the individual to group composed of virtual digital people will be able to simulate human society better in the future. In addition, virtual human materialization, i.e. high humanoid robot, is designed and manufactured by imitating human form and behavior, and has some physical characteristics of human. Virtual human, robot and natural person constitute the three main bodies of the meta universe world.
What is the value of virtual digital people?
In terms of social value, as a new medium, virtual digital people can help track, count, analyze, simulate and display individual memory, collective memory, historical memory, news memory, cultural memory, national memory and world memory, so as to empower cultural memory institutions such as libraries, archives, museums and art galleries, and reconstruct digital resource management.
In terms of employment structure, virtual digital people can replace some basic and simple manual service work and bring development opportunities for the tertiary industry. Some people get away from basic service-oriented work to fill the demand for more innovative and varied jobs and innovate the employment structure. The virtual digital human industry will give rise to many new occupations, such as face pincher, virtual clothing designer, tuner, operation officer, etc.
As an emerging industry, how big is the market for virtual digital people?
At present, in terms of industrial scale, the main application scenarios of the virtual digital human industrial chain cover media, games, film and television and other fields. There are more than 50 vertical core enterprises, mainly concentrated in Beijing, Guangdong, Shanghai, Zhejiang and other places. It is estimated that the industrial scale of virtual digital people will be 100 billion yuan in 2025.
In terms of financing, 50% of the cases with a financing scale of more than 100 million yuan in virtual digital human enterprises occurred in integrated interactive virtual human production companies, 30% occurred in functional virtual interactive companies, and 20% occurred in virtual image and content production companies. This reflects the threshold of realizing AI interaction function in terms of funds. From the perspective of capital selection, integrated interactive virtual human production, virtual image and content production, and functional virtual interactive enterprises are more in line with the future development trend.
Although the market space of the industry is very large, the development of the domestic virtual digital human industry is still relatively early and presents some characteristics. First, the technology development of the virtual digital human industry is still to be mature, and the inherent competitive pattern has not yet been formed; Second, many virtual digital human companies have emerged for small and medium-sized customers; Third, small and medium-sized enterprises have a long production cycle, high production cost and generally poor commercialization; Fourth, there are abundant business fields, and virtual digital people are constantly combined with traditional industries.
It is understood that the representative virtual digital human enterprises in China mainly include MOFA technology, Xiangxin technology, Zhongke Shenzhi, Baidu, iFLYTEK, etc. the layout of each enterprise is different. Foreign representative virtual digital human enterprises such as soul machines, oben, Epic Games, NVIDIA, etc. The core of foreign virtual digital human products is to provide humanized assistants, and to C is the main business field.
From the perspective of individual users and enterprises, the virtual digital human industry will have a broader development space.
The acceptance and application of personal users to virtual digital people will grow rapidly. With the further iteration of technology, the AI interaction ability, terminal use experience and operation difficulty of virtual digital people will develop towards user friendliness, and young people who have extensive contact with new media will be easier to integrate into the world of virtual digital people.
The demand of enterprises for the production of virtual digital people will increase exponentially. Whether in functional or identity application fields, whether in social or game software, virtual digital people will become the first node to serve users. The wide demand will promote the virtual human production enterprises to usher in a wave of development.
Although the development prospect of the virtual digital human industry is promising, there are still many factors restricting the industrial development to achieve large-scale implementation.
For example, the technology span of virtual digital people is large, the gap between professionals and cross-border talents is large, the industrial chain is long, the cost of industrial communication is high, the quality of industrial products is uneven and there is no unified standard, and so on.
From the technical point of view, the development of the virtual digital human construction engine should be further strengthened, from the expression system to the motion system to the intelligent system, so that the virtual digital human will become more realistic, move more smoothly and naturally, and understand the dialogue content better. Through the in-depth learning of text and voice, the corresponding expression, mouth shape and action will be generated to improve the interactivity of the virtual human.
From the perspective of application, it is necessary to strengthen the research on the productivity improvement of virtual digital people. At present, virtual digital people are mostly used in virtual idols, which makes the application scenarios of virtual digital people limited. Enterprises can set up virtual digital people from multiple angles, give them different personal settings and personalities, and conduct diversified processing in image and sound.
Virtual people can not only become virtual idols, but also voice for enterprises, penetrate into different industries, and assume the roles of virtual customer service and virtual spokesperson. By improving the virtual productivity of enterprises and combining the virtual digital human with the robot process automation, the labor force will be liberated from the basic service industry and more labor force will flow to the innovative industry.
From the perspective of ethics, on the one hand, it is necessary to improve the autonomous learning ability of virtual digital people, and on the other hand, it is also necessary to prevent AI awakening.
The government can encourage the establishment of virtual human cooperation associations for small and medium-sized enterprises, introduce policies to encourage researchers to study from multiple perspectives, jointly negotiate and solve technical problems, and estimate the risks of sudden problems such as AI awakening and personal privacy disclosure.
In short, while pursuing the technological innovation of virtual digital people, human beings should also adhere to the concept of people-oriented, realize the maximum benefits of technology to human society, and build a good technical standard.