Virtual idol means music to stock market’s ears

After Digital Domain's showcase of a digital recreation of legendary singer Teresa Teng, AI companies saw a surge in share prices.



January 5, 2022

Although legendary Chinese singer Teresa Teng passed away in 1995, a Chinese company’s cutting-edge digital technology recreated her virtual clone, stunning a large offline audience at a New Year’s Eve concert on Friday night, and sending the company’s shares soaring to stratospheric heights on Monday and Tuesday.

Millions of online viewers reportedly dropped their jaws in utter disbelief at the likeness of Teng whose digital avatar came complete with her famed sweet smile and signature gestures.

The concert was broadcast by Jiangsu TV, a local TV station, with the help of leading virtual human technology from Hong Kong-listed Digital Domain Ltd Holdings.

Digital Teng belted out three numbers with Zhou Shen, a 30-year-old popular singer.

And Digital Domain, “her” producer, said several technologies like facial capture, rendering, machine learning, high-resolution 3-D modeling, animation processing and visual enhancement went into recreation of the singer’s likeness.

The company’s expert graphic artists and computer engineers drew inspiration from the use of such technologies in the creation of the character of Thanos for the Avengers movie series of Marvel Studios.

On Monday, shares of Digital Domain soared 25 percent in Hong Kong and extended their gains by a further 3 percent on Tuesday.

What is more, even other listed AI companies such as Silkroad CG basked in Digital Domain’s glory, with their shares surging as well on Tuesday.

“As the company continues to expand our research and development in facial capture and autonomous behavior, we’ll be able to extend these innovations out to consumers and tech partners who are looking to enhance virtual human capabilities beyond simple voice recognition applications,” said Daniel Seah, executive director and CEO of Digital Domain.

Digital Domain was cofounded by film director James Cameron in 1993. Since then, it has produced visual effects for hundreds of Hollywood movies, which won the company several Academy Awards or Oscars.

“Despite COVID-19 uncertainties, we are promoting virtual human actors to replace real human actors,” he said.

According to a report by market consultancy iiMedia, the market size of virtual idols hit 6.22 billion yuan ($976 million) in China last year, up nearly 80 percent year-on-year. The market is expected to expand to 20 billion yuan over the next two years.

“As virtual interactions and events turn into key communication channels among pandemic-wary consumers, virtual humans or virtual idols have injected new impetus into the entertainment industry,” said Yang Qiguang, a mass communications lecturer at the Renmin University of China. “But more rules and regulations are needed on the copyright of past celebrities to better regulate the industry.”

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