Chinese tech companies to develop industry-disrupting AI livestreamers

In April, the Alibaba-owned travel agency Fliggy brought AI-created art to China’s subway walls, sparking online debate over whether the technology will replace designers and artists. The livestreaming industry is the next in China to reckon with the question of who will benefit from AI, and who will end up jobless.

According to a report from the South China Morning Post, several Chinese tech companies are currently working on developing virtual livestream hosts powered by generative AI. These models would replace the humans whose jobs are to sell goods online – from groceries to beauty products and everything in between – using their personal charisma, salesmanship, and connection to viewers.

Virtual hosts have huge cost-saving potential for any companies looking to sell products online. One Guangzhou-based virtual host provider charges just 500 RMB (70 USD) a month for companies to use the host in short videos or livestreams. This is just a fraction of the price of hiring a human host and renting a filming space which costs 50,000 RMB (7,000 USD) on average.

AI livestreamers already exist in China, but with limited application. Several large consumer brands, including an unnamed local electronics giant, are in talks with Beijing-based start-up WH Zones to launch virtual livestreamer campaigns in August. Chairman of WH Zones, Gao Zilong, told the South China Morning Post that these hosts will be modelled after popular celebrities to ensure the greatest sales impact.

Whilst young people are likely to be more accepting of virtual hosts, many older people also watch livestreams and may be less excited to see virtual hosts popping up on their favourite channels. Some argue that virtual hosts are risk-free as there is no chance of them having messy personal lives that could damage a brand’s reputation. However, it is also hard to see how a non-human interaction can inspire the trust that is a key part of a successful commercial livestream service.


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