Baidu's latest digital development is the next step in the tech giant's ambitious Web3 rollout. Will the use of virtual hosts allow it to dominate China's metaverse?
Despite the stringent restrictions from Beijing, Baidu is storming ahead with its metaverse ambitions. The launch of the annual flagship Baidu World 2022 Conference held on July 21st introduced Baidu AI Cloud's launch of their livestream platform with virtual hosts. These will support 24-hour, AI-driven live-streaming, starring hyper-realistic digital avatars each with a free choice of makeup, hair, clothing and scene.
Also set to be unveiled at the conference is the "mass production" of virtual beings - created to celebrate the group's recent breakthrough with its artificial intelligence algorithm. The news, that was announced via Weibo, communicates that every human will be able to possess a virtual counterpart.
Avatars: China's increasingly lucrative sector in the metaverse
Virtual humans are expected to reach an estimated value of $1.79 billion in the country (12 billion RMB) by the end of 2022, making them one of the key components of its metaverse strategy. Sarah Yam, co-founder of marketing agency Red Digital, believes that Baidu has recognised this business potential and is tapping it early.
"I think we'll see Baidu leverage its virtual influencer technologies to promote and sell technological products," she explains. "Virtual influencers provide scope for the company to make use of its years of experience cultivating artificial intelligence fundamentals, such as with its AI models." Compared with using real live streamers, the avatars Baidu is proposing are not limited to people, time, and space, which is expected to reduce its costs by more than 20 percent.
This sentiment is echoed by Jessie Fu, co-founder of digital-first fashion house altr_, who states that this move could be the next step in attracting a new demographic of netizens. "Baidu's AI technology can massively enhance the productivity of live streamers and the brands they support. Live-streaming already provides a more interactive experience with consumers, but the metaverse can unlock even more interactive, personalised, and real-time experiences with a new generation of users," she adds. Audiences in Web3 aren't willing to passively consume content; they are active participants, meaning comprehensive user experience is crucial for a firm's long-term virtual survival.
Satisfying the luxury market
While hyper-realistic hosts are undoubtedly Baidu's most ambitious venture yet, the organization has previously demonstrated that it is pretty well-versed when it comes to digital dimensions. In fact, just earlier this year, the search engine giant launched ts own version of the metaverse named XiRang. This can be accessed via devices such as VR and allows its users to create avatars and communicate with others.
Since XiRang's conception, the company has carried out a number of initiatives within its domain in order to generate traffic, create hype, and boost the digital universe's visibility - such as hosting Dior's first-ever metaverse show, "On The Road". The collection was presented through an interactive experience in the "Meta Ziwu" virtual space.