The first metahuman AYAYI (super realistic digital human) was created by RM Inc. (燃麦科技) earlier this year. AYAYI made her first appearance on Red on May 20th, 2021, the Chinese version of Valentine’s Day. As of July 1st, AYAYI’s first笔记 (note) launched on Red has won 95,000+ likes, 13,000+ favorites, and 2+ million reads. All in all, AYAYI has 58,000+ fans and was liked or favorited 133,000+ times on Red. The popularity continues, and the data persists to grow. The speed in increasing followers broke the history of the Red KOL community and attracted the attention of top luxury brands, including Guerlain.
Guerlain invited AYAYI to its limited-time event
On June 15th and 16th, in Shanghai, Guerlain invited KOLs, including AYAYI, to attend its summer event 夏日亲「蜜」花园 (“Beeloved Garden”). In the next few days, the content released by KOLs began to spread on various platforms to promote the limited-time event. Among those, AYAYI’s pictures at this event became the focus of attention. Many KOLs found AYAYI’s photo shooting locations, imitating her gestures and poses, and took pictures. This is also Guerlain’s first collaboration with a non-real person.
AYAYI’s first month of internet presence
Stunned by her beauty and aesthetics of AYAYI’s first photo, People soon started creating AYAYI inspired makeup tutorials and AYAYI inspired artworks. When people are having heated discussions on whether she was an Artificial Intelligence, she posted a photo of her at the Shanghai Mickey exhibition, the first tour stop in China of “Mickey: The True Original & Ever Curious.” She was the first influencer who posted the photo visiting the tour, and soon people went to the exhibition for same-style photos.
During the first month, she posted photos with Chinese celebrity 陈伟霆 (William Chan), went to exhibitions, thanked fans for creating AYAYI-inspired paintings, and congratulated the launch of Shenzhou 12, the seventh crewed Chinese spaceflight.
The company who created AYAYI
On June 25th, 2021, AYAYI was officially confirmed to be the first metahuman of China. RM Inc. (燃麦科技), China’s incubation and operation company for ultra-realistic digital humans, created AYAYI. RM Inc. has received millions of Pre-A rounds of financing from 万象文化 (Wanxiang), China’s leading virtual idol integrated service provider. The design of AYIYA took RM Inc. more than half a year and 40 versions of iteration after consulting and screening with multiple industries. According to the data provided to 虎嗅 (Huxiu.com) by RM Inc., the primary fans of AYAYI are Gen Z, accounting for nearly 60% of her fans. In terms of gender, 83% are women.
Gen Z and China’s Virtual Influencers
Gen Z now has a more substantial influence on popular culture. Digitalization and virtualization of Gen Z’s lives, social interactions, and consumption make virtual idols part of the mass culture. According to 爱奇艺 iQiyi’s report in 2019 on virtual icons, near 400 million people were following or going to follow virtual celebrities. It predicted China’s virtual idol market will reach 200 billion RMB in 2020.
Many brands have created virtual identities to gain Gen Z’s attention, such as 花西子 (Florasis) having its same-named virtual identity, Tmall having 喵酱 (Miaojiang). However, based on Unreal Engine’s Metahuman Creator platform, AYAYI was developed to be believable and unprecedentedly realistic.
Why would one prefer digital idols to real-life idols?
There are many unique advantages to using virtual idols. Taking AYAYI as an example, metahumans are, first of all, a “species” that is completely unrestricted by time, space, weather, physical conditions, skills, and other factors. For both fans and businesses, the virtual idols would not have dark sides so that their public persona could always stay positive. Further, they do not age, but they could continually evolve with technology; with that said, they can continue to grow with fans. Hence, their reputation will stay perfect, their content production efficient, and their potentials grander.
Before AYAYI, metahumans Lil Miquela (US) and Imma (Japan) have worked with some of the top fashion brands such as Prada, Dior, and Burberry. Although they are CGI avatars who only attend events digitally, brands are still attracted to the realistic yet astonishing beauty of metahumans. We expect AYAYI, as the first metahuman of China, to empower brands with her limitless potential as a futuristic icon. In the long run, the boundary between virtuality and reality would only grow increasingly blurred, and the user experience will become more immersive. The Metaverse, where immersion and participation have reached their peaks, will become the “ultimate form” of the Internet, encouraging businesses to adopt AR, VR, gaming marketing tools to reach their customers.
Author: Zhiting (Vanessa) Sun