Sequoia-backed Startup Xmov Unveils China’s First AI Virtual Influencer

Xmov

China’s virtual idol industry was valued at $14 million in 2018, and is expected to grow to $210 million by 2023

China’s first virtual key opinion leader (KOL) Ling, co-created by Sequoia Capital backed Chinese artificial intelligence (AI) startup Xmov Information Technology and Beijing Cishi Culture Media Company, made her world online debut on Monday.

Ling’s team will generate content around such characteristics as the national essence of Peking Opera and the combination of classic and modern fashion on social platforms like Weibo, Instagram, and TikTok, Xmov said in a statement.

With commercial programming, the 3D virtual figure, which bears a close resemblance to a human, will engage in business endorsements, live broadcasts, and participate in online and offline activities.

CEO and Founder of Xmov, Chai Jinxiang said, virtual IP value will be released at the maximum level via live-streaming and short videos.

Relying on proprietary full-stack end-to-end AI technology, Xmov’s AI performance animation technology drives facial expressions, eyes, body and finger movements, and can generate short videos or real-time broadcasts to realize the interaction and commercialization of virtual intelligent property (IP).

According to Xmov, mainland China is Ling’s focus market, where Ling has accumulated 19,558 followers on Weibo and has given rise to 5.45 million topics within four days from initial launch. However, Ling has thus far been slow to generate interest on Instagram, where Ling has only 13 followers.

“Mainland China remains our centric focus as of now. But we will consider various options ahead, after reviewing surrounding factors, which will include extended penetration into other social media platforms such as Instagram,” a spokesperson told Jumpstart.

The emerging virtual idol sector, backed by China’s younger generation, has attracted investment from domestic internet firms.

According to McKinsey’s ‘China Digital Consumer Trends 2019,’ KOLs wield tremendous influence over consumer decisions in China, whose online retail market is larger than the next 10 markets combined.

Whether consumers are contemplating which beauty brand to buy, or sharing lockdown experiences, KOLs play a huge role in China as they provide a personal connection and are trusted as credible sources.

The sheer size of the Chinese population provides an idea of the huge market potential in China, where around 83% of young consumers’ purchasing decisions are influenced by KOL recommendations, according to CCTV.

For example, Huiyi Zhuanyong Xiaomajia, a comedy and pet blogger on Weibo, who is considered a small to medium-sized influencer, has 41 million followers with an average engagement of 10,000 for each of his posts.

According to Newsijie.cn, China’s virtual idol industry was valued at $14 million in 2018, and is expected to grow to $210 million by 2023. Moreover, in 2016, China’s KOL economy was valued at $8.6 billion, according to CBNData.

The virtual idol trend first originated in Japan, where the virtual IP industry has thrived. Hatsune Miku, a virtual idol pioneer, is an anime character who sings through a vocal synthesizer. Miku has performed multiple times in China, singing in both Chinese and Japanese.

However, the trend isn’t just an Asian phenomenon, with U.S.-based virtual influencers like Miquela [Instagram: @lilmiquela] and Bermuda [Instagram: @bermudaisbae] garnering hundreds of thousands of followers on the platform.

Last year, virtual idol Luo Tianyi, who has over 4 million fans on Weibo, performed with China’s top pianist Lang Lang, marking the country’s first concert between a holographic singer and a real-life musician.

Header Image Courtesy of Xmov

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Monika Ghosh
Monika Ghosh is a Staff Writer at Jumpstart

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