Lili Ziren, a hyperrealistic AI actor, has taken the Chinese entertainment industry by storm, starring in the TV series “I Am Nobody” alongside human castmates. Produced by Tencent Animation and Comics and distributed on the Youku platform, Lili’s remarkable likeness to a human performer has garnered her a growing fan base across Chinese social media platforms.
The praise of perfection
Unlike previous virtual influencers and AI robots, Lili Ziren’s lifelike movements and appearance have left audiences astounded. Created through the combination of human stand-ins and meticulous post-production work, Lili is not a mere clone of an existing actor. Chinese viewers have welcomed her with open arms, praising her for her impeccable portrayal of the character Er Zhuang.
One significant advantage of AI-generated actors like Lili is their immunity to scandals, a feature that has not gone unnoticed by the public. Internet users have voiced their support for this novel form of entertainment, with one stating, “She will never have her reputation tanked by a scandal.” Such sentiments reflect the potential appeal of AI actors in a world where controversies involving human actors are not uncommon.
Unearthing the AI entertainment boom
China’s AI industry has been thriving, driven in part by companies seeking to boost productivity. In 2018, Xinhua introduced the world’s first English-speaking AI news anchor, Zhang Zhao, to reduce production costs and ensure 24/7 availability.
Since then, generative AI has surged, leading to the creation of translated podcasts, lip-syncing apps, and virtual influencers with a range of appearances, from cartoonish to glamorous.
Leading tech giants in China, such as Alibaba, Baidu, and Tencent, have heavily invested in large-scale AI models, expanding AI’s reach across various industries. Videos discussing the AI industry and the emergence of AI digital avatars in China have gained widespread popularity online, underscoring the growing fascination with AI-generated content.
Recent developments have seen AI integration into China’s billion-dollar livestreaming industry, enabling AI streamers to interact with users in real-time and even speak multiple languages. These digital clones are created with just one camera and five minutes of footage of the real person they emulate.
Xiaoice and Quantum Planet’s AI streamers, in particular, can communicate in 129 languages, expanding their versatility for various applications, including the sale of products such as makeup, children’s activities, and boba tea, all available 24/7.
These AI-generated avatars have found their place in the live-streaming sector as they fill the void when human influencers are unavailable. This not only reduces labor and operational costs for merchants but also optimizes idle traffic.
The controversy surrounding AI influencers
While some are fascinated by the capabilities of AI streamers, others express concerns about their implications. Critics argue that AI’s increasing role in various sectors, including entertainment, may result in job displacement, manipulation, misinformation, scams, and the spread of racist content.
Neil Sahota, an AI adviser for the United Nations, points out that China has been at the forefront of advocating for AI regulation due to the country’s firsthand experience with deepfakes and other AI-related misuses.
Sahota notes that China’s comprehensive regulations on AI, including those for deep synthesis and generative AI, emphasize the importance of disclosure when AI-generated content is used.
China’s Push for International AI Governance
China’s proactive stance on AI regulation is not limited to its domestic efforts. The country has been pressuring other nations to develop mutual governance standards and policies in response to the borderless nature of technology. With technology transcending geographical boundaries, international cooperation is seen as crucial to address the challenges posed by AI.
Matt Sheehan, a fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, highlights China’s detailed regulations on AI images, deepfakes, chatbots, and more. These regulations require users to disclose their use of AI-generated content, and social apps like Douyin and Bilibili have introduced their labeling systems to ensure proper disclosure.
The future of AI in entertainment
As tech companies in China continue to explore the vast potential of AI, AI actors like Lili Ziren continue to captivate audiences. The rapid growth of this sector has sparked excitement, with the question remaining: How fast will it grow?
In a world where the lines between reality and AI-generated content blur, the allure of AI actors and streamers is undeniable. As regulations evolve and technology advances, the impact of AI on the entertainment industry and beyond is set to expand, reshaping the way we perceive and engage with digital personalities.