Chinese businesses are paying significant amounts of money for virtual workers in a range of fields such as customer support and the entertainment industry. Tech company Baidu has experienced an increase in demand for virtual persons, with prices ranging from $2,800 to $14,300 per year. These virtual humans, created using machine learning, sound technology, and animation, can perform tasks like singing, dancing, and participating in live-stream interaction. Some customers of virtual people include state media, local tourism boards, and financial services businesses.
According to the head of Baidu’s virtual people and robotics division, Li Shiyan, costs for virtual people have decreased by around 80% in the past year due to technological advancements. For instance, a three-dimensional virtual human costs approximately $14,300 per year, while a two-dimensional one costs $2,800 per year. Li predicts that the virtual person market will continue to grow by 50% annually through 2025.
The Chinese government is actively working to develop virtual persons, with Beijing City announcing a strategy in August to increase the value of the municipal virtual persons market to over $7 billion by 2025. The plan also calls for the creation of one or two ‘leading virtual people businesses’, each with operating revenues of at least $700 million. Key government agencies have also published a plan to incorporate more virtual reality, particularly in industries such as broadcasting and manufacturing. The country’s most recent five-year plan, unveiled last year, also emphasized the importance of economic digitalization, including in virtual and augmented reality.