Hyper-Realistic MetaHuman: The “Bridge” to the Metaverse in Web 3.0
Read time: 4 minutes
[This article was translated from Mandarin]
The digital human, MetaHuman, has emerged and is now one of the most mature commercial applications in the metaverse. Because it was born in the metaverse, the MetaHuman already excelled in various applications, including virtual models and brand spokespeople. So how did digital humans evolve? What is the industry structure? What kind of investment value do they offer?
To answer these questions, GLG invited Tang Yi, founder and Co-President of Shanghai Ranmai Technology, to explore the future of digital humans. The following is the interview summary.
How did digital humans develop?
Digital humans use computer graphics (CG) technology to create a digital image that is designed to look like a real human being with a humanlike personality. These hyper-realistic avatars narrow the psychological distance between the digital image and real people to create a realistic emotional interaction for humans. There are four main stages in the evolution of digital humans.
- Embryonic stage (1980s): Digital humans, mainly drawn by hand, were introduced to the real world for the first time.
- Exploration stage (early 2000s): Conventional manual drawings were gradually replaced by computer technologies such as CG and motion capture.
- Primary stage (recent five years): Breakthroughs in deep learning simplified the production process, and AI has become an inseparable tool. Representative images include Microsoft’s Xiaoice and Samsung’s digital human, NEON.
- Growth stage (present): Groundbreaking improvement in aesthetics with profound advances in technology that impart higher intelligence, greater fidelity, and more diversity. Typical technologies include AYAYI and Hua Zhibing.
What is the structure of the digital human industry?
The industry structure can be divided into the following layers.
- Infrastructure companies — They provide underlying tools for digital human production, such as modeling, rendering, motion capture, and collaborative management of assets, and these include companies like MAYA, Unity, and ARNOLD.
- Asset producers — They employ basic tools required to complete the entire digital human service. Digital Domain and Faceunity Technology are examples of such producers.
- Planning and operation companies — They manage the intellectual property (IP) of digital assets and create opportunities for digital asset derivatives. Such companies include Brud, China Literature Group, and Mihoyo.
- Platform companies and industry clients — Platform companies refer to internet service providers (such as Baidu, Volcengine, and Tencent), while industry clients include brands, entertainment agencies, mass media, and interactive entertainment, among others (such as CCTV, SM Entertainment, Florasis, Bilibili). These companies use digital humans for a variety of purposes in different environments and business sectors.
What kind of long-term investment value do digital humans offer?
Innovative marketing using digital humans can generate a lot of buzz for brands. Virtual personalities operating within real-world parameters offer brands and users alike a space where real and virtual humans can interact. Digital humans can also help companies achieve digital transformation and efficiency.
For brands, the investment value of digital humans lies in the following two aspects.
- Compared with a celebrity brand ambassador, a digital human is more manageable and versatile — The character design is stable and controllable. It has a long life cycle and can serve the brand for a long time without the negative incidents that real-life celebrities may get involved in. With the help of technology, they can deliver content steadily. Digital humans can be designed to be user-centric to maintain interactivity and user engagement.
- Compared with traditional brand equity, digital humans are more effective and comprehensive — They create a unique brand perception and provide users with conceptualized branded assets in a digital world, rather than a decentralized membership or points system. They add a personal touch. The interactions of the digital human and a brand’s customers can strengthen emotional ties to the brand. Digital humans also have an emphasis on user inputs and co-creation.
Brands can choose to use existing digital humans or develop their own. Brands that choose to employ a predeveloped digital human often want an image that fits with the tone of the brand to do quick and direct marketing. Following prevailing trends can generate attention and traffic for the brand, or help brands test the market and identify ways to stand out. It can also help explore the possibility of brand reorientation but with more fragmented results.
Building your own digital human has a higher cost and the investment cycle is longer. If you choose to develop your own digital human, the cost is about RMB 8 to 10 million, including technology, materials, and manpower resources. The return on investment comes from an extension of the IP itself, as well as NFTs and business endorsements in brand collaborations.
Before going online, it is necessary to clarify the purpose of your digital human. This helps create the character and build the storylines and images. For example, when we create a digital human, we need to do a focus group and write a character biography. After the launch, you still need to continuously generate content for the character and push the business-driven transformation between B2B and B2C. Long-term operations often involve tasks like content planning, creative styling, visual postproduction, and business development.
About the Author
Tang Yi is the founder and Co-President of Shanghai Ranmai Technology, which is a leading pan-entertainment MCN organization. He is familiar with short video marketing and operation, metaverse, virtual human IP operation, NFTs, and digital collection, among other topics. Ranmai Technology has developed and launched several hyper-realistic digital humans. Among them, AYAYI has been online since May 20, 2021, and currently has more than 600,000 followers on Weibo and Red. Its partnership brands and organizations include Tiffany, BOSE, Porsche, BURBERRY, MAC, L’Oreal, and Tmall, as well as fashion publications such as WSJ Magazine China and Harper’s Bazaar.
This technology industry article was adapted from the GLG teleconference “Hyper-Realistic MetaHuman — Unlock the Imagination in Digital Assets Operations.” If you would like access to events like this or would like to speak with technology industry experts like Tang Yi or any of our approximately 1 million industry experts, please contact us.