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Virtual influencers from Asia at the forefront of the metaverse

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With neon mane and flawless skin, Bangkok Naughty Boo integrates the new generation of influencers on Asia who promise to stay young, fashionable and without scandals for life. In part, because they have been computer generated.

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Blurring the lines between fantasy and reality, these virtual stars are hugely popular with teens in the region, and their influence is set to grow as interest in the “metaverse” grows, say industry experts.

“I’m 17 forever, non-binary, dreaming of becoming a pop star,” says Bangkok Naughty Boo.

Created by fashion designer Adisak Jirasakkasem and his friends, the character is part of the tribe of virtual influencers “Made in Thailand” that emerged due to the pandemic.

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Another is Ai-Ailynn, who debuted in September amid her agency’s frustrations over the “limitations of human influences” during the COVID-19 lockdowns. Virtual influencers “are fit for the new normal,” said the SIA Bangkok agency.

All over the world, artificial intelligence creations are gaining their niche in the lucrative market for digital influencers, which may reach a value of $ 13.8 billion in 2021, according to data platform Statista.

Industry analysts point out that in the next decade the greatest development will be experienced in Asia.

“We believe that Asia will be a rapidly growing area in the virtual influencers sector,” explains Nick Baklanov, Marketing Specialist at Hype Auditor.

“Generation Z (understood from the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s, ndlr) is the largest group of Internet users in Asia, and is a generation with digital skills and very familiar with social networks,” he adds.

“First inhabitants of the metaverse”

The number of virtual influencers has more than tripled in two years and stands at 130, says Baklanov, who senses an industry boom thanks to Facebook’s investment in the metaverse, a virtual reality version of the internet.

“Virtual influencers are better prepared for the role of being the first inhabitants of the metaverse than anyone else,” he considers.

The virtual character that supposedly generates the most income is Lil Miquela, an “attractive robot girl” created in Los Angeles and who has worked for brands such as Prada or Calvin Klein. He is estimated to earn $ 7,000 from each post.

The World Health Organization (WHO) signed Knox Frost, a 21-year-old virtual youth from Atlanta, to spread messages about the coronavirus to its 700,000 followers.

In Asia, computer-generated music stars like Hatsune Miku in Japan, Luo Tianyi in China, or the Korean pop groups Eternity or K / DA paved the way for these new virtual personalities.

To create Bangkok Naughty Boo, Adisak photographs models at different locations in the Thai capital and then fuses their bodies with a computer-generated face.

Bangkok Naughty Boo has already signed with a major human modeling agency in Thailand. Its digital counterpart, Ai-Ailynn, will be the face of a prominent mobile operator.

“Influencers hoard more power in the East and offer more lucrative opportunities as the concepts of idol and fan are more ingrained in the culture,” said Saisangeeth Daswani, beauty and fashion industry analyst at market consultancy Stylus .

No scandals

Another advantage of these fictitious avatars is that they are easy to control, they do not hide problematic pasts, nor will they generate political or reputational scandals for the brand, something important to countries like China, whose authorities want to limit the influence of pop stars and the internet.

“Some brands enjoy the security of partnering with virtual influencers who have a predefined past and future,” says Christopher Travers, founder of the Virtual Humans website, which studies the industry.

Virtual influencers “do not make political comments or are immersed in sex scandals,” explains Chen May Yee, director of Wunderman Thompson Intelligence for Asia-Pacific.

Although some influencers of flesh and blood are suspicious of this trend, the Thai Mutchima Wachirakomain welcomes them.

“They are very nice,” exclaims the 25-year-old, who shares fashionable poses without filters or makeup with her 21,000 Instagram followers.

“People are still looking for authenticity, the true of a real influencer. Characters cannot replace the intimate connections humans have, ”she explains as she prepares for a session in a Bangkok coffee shop.

But Bangkok Naughty Boo takes the challenge. On his Instagram he publishes images posing in front of urban landscapes, but also daily scenes receiving the anti-COVID vaccine or spilling a tea. “I hope I can meet you in person one day. I love you! ”He said.

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