Culture 3 min read

Thousands of Chinese Fans Pay To See Virtual Hologram

In a strange first for China, tens of thousands of fans in Shanghai have attended the performance of holographic icon Luo Tianyi.

Image courtesy of SCMP via Jane Zhang

Image courtesy of SCMP via Jane Zhang

With recent advancements in technology, many are already afraid they’ll lose their jobs to robots. For singers and other stage performers in China, the threat is slightly different. It’s virtual idols – digital avatars that have voices and personalities.

Thousands of fans gathered at the Mercedes Benz Arena in Shanghai to see an unusual show. It was the world famous Chinese Pianist, Lang Lang, performing alongside 15 years old singer, Luo Tianyi.

With over three million fans on Weibo (China’s equivalent of Twitter), Luo is arguably one of the most famous singers in the country. So, it wasn’t surprising that fans had to pay as much as $235 for concert tickets.

There’s just one little thing; Luo Tianyi is not human.

Virtual holograms performing on stage is not particularly new. Within the last decade, several holographic concerts have been created based on a specific human performer’s movement and voice. An example is the Michael Jackson holographic concert in 2018.

However, the Shanghai performance was entirely different.

According to the South China Morning Post (SCMP), Luo’s two-hour performance was a result of 200 production staff and six months of hard work.

Luo Tianyi; The Virtual Celebrity

Yamaha and The stars designed a product of advanced technology and creative minds, Luo Tianyi, in 2012. While her image was selected from fan paintings, Chinese voice actress, Shan Xin provided the voice.

An actress wearing a motion capture suit does rehearsals for the Luo Tianyi concert. Photo Credit: Thomas Yau/SCMP

Not only has the virtual doll grown to become famous in China, but it’s also the most profitable one. Aside from being a brand ambassador for Pizza Hut, Luo also does promotional works for fast food chain KFC and beverage brand Nestlé.

For Luo’s solo performance at the Mercedes Benz arena, a team of Chinese and Japanese staff created her movement and facial expressions ahead of the show. They used sophisticated tech such as 3D modeling, Augmented Reality, and motion capture techniques to make her appear real.

Also, a voice dubber and motion-capture actress worked backstage to enable the virtual idol to interact with Lang Lang in real time.

The Growing Virtual Idol Industry in China

Millions of Chinese youngsters worship virtual idols. As a result, the industry is enjoying a huge boost. Currently valued at $15 million, China’s virtual idol industry is expected to reach over $200 million within the next three years.

According to Liu Zizheng, chief executive of Chinese social live streaming platform KilaKila, “China’s virtual idol industry is still in a very early stage.”

“We were in the exploration period up until 2018 so this year might be a boom one for the industry in China,” said Liu.

Read More: KFC Adds Robot Servers and AI Menus to Chinese Locations

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Sumbo Bello

Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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