The city government wants to invest nearly $900 million to build a technology, business and governance ecosystem for virtual humans that leverages Web3 technologies.
Beijing is investing in a virtual human industry based on Web3 technologies, according to a report in the South China Morning Post.
Virtual humans, or digital avatars, are a burgeoning industry as companies use them for promotion and online entertainment. The avatars ranging from cartoons to the GEICO gecko to lifelike creations collaborate with fashion, beauty and food brands as storytellers and “influencers” and have gained hundreds of thousands of followers. In Ukraine, digital avatar Astra Starr shares stories of living in a war zone.
The Chinese avatar market is expected to be worth $1.5 billion by 2026, according to market research firm IDC, which noted that avatars have already been used for customer service, entertainments and livestreaming.
According to a document published by the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Economy and Information Technology and cited by the South China Morning Post, the Beijing city government wants to invest nearly $750 million in one or two leading virtual human companies and about $150 million in 10 smaller businesses over the next three years to form a technology, business and governance ecosystem with Web3 technologies.
Cryptocurrency is banned in China, so Web3 technologies, such as non-fungible tokens and digital currency, are treated with caution by Chinese businesses and individuals. Nevertheless, Beijing’s plan calls for exploring “blockchain-based trading platforms for what it calls digital human data factors, such as ‘models, skins and textures.’”
The plan also outlines formulating industry standards and investing in research related to modeling and rendering software as well as virtual reality solutions. Beijing plans to use the virtual humans to promote tourist destinations, the article said.
With advances in artificial intelligence along with development of standards and 5G networking, the costs for producing digital humans will drop, making them more accessible to a variety of industries, including retail, finance and education.
According to the South China Morning Post, China’s “media watchdog,” the National Radio and Television Administration discussed advancing the use of virtual humans in its five-year plan in part because they can “avoid scandals and controversies that real celebrities and influencers get involved in.”