Alibaba unveils its first ‘Virtual Influencer’

In time for the Beijing Olympics
In time for the Beijing Olympics

Alibaba Group has unveiled its brand-new virtual influencer for the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 (“Games”). Based on cloud technology, Dong Dong, the advanced digital persona created by Alibaba to engage with fans, brings the possibilities of cloud-based innovation closer to consumers.

Developed by Alibaba DAMO Academy, Alibaba Group’s global research initiative, Dong Dong was created to be a passionate, outspoken Beijing-born 22-year-old woman who loves winter sports. To better connect with Olympic fans, especially the younger, tech-savvy generation, Dong Dong is known for her authentic human-like features, sparkling personality, as well as her specialty to interact with audiences in an engaging manner.

Among her many talents, Dong Dong is not only going to promote Olympic merchandise which can be bought in the official Olympic shop in China on Tmall during her dedicated live streaming shows, but she can also respond to questions in a lively, natural human voice with different emotions, along with various body gestures from giving a thumbs-up to posting heart-shape gesture and wiping away tears of disappointment. In addition, she can perform live talk shows to introduce Olympic fun facts to the audience, and show off her enthusiastic, upbeat dance moves to accompany the Olympic theme songs to cheer for the Olympians. All these engaging interactions are powered by cloud-based digital technologies.

To realize Dong Dong’s dynamic personality, human-like glamour, and natural voice, Alibaba built a special cloud-based AI model, which uses Text to Speech to synthesize human voices and leverages 3D-driven technology to create various realistic facial expressions and natural body movements. Powered by cloud computing and AI technologies, Dong Dong can look, speak and act like a young woman with a lively personality. Meanwhile, Alibaba’s multimodal algorithms, which leverage Natural Language Processing (NLP), Emotional Speech Synthesis, and computer vision on the cloud, have been used to make Dong Dong ‘smart’ enough to take part in human-like dialogues naturally, with her scripts entirely generated by cloud technologies.   

“Our ambition is to use cloud technology to give the Olympic Winter Games a digital uplift and to deliver Olympic Winter Games experiences relating to cloud and e-commerce platform services to fans in a creative way. That’s why we developed Dong Dong, with the hope that the cloud-based virtual influencer can create better engagement with the younger, digital natives in an exciting and natural way,” said Xiaolong Li, Leader of Alibaba Virtual Human & Intelligent Customer Service.

This is in part of the company’s efforts in Beijing as a Worldwide TOP Partner of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), where other projects include a virtual museum done via Cloud Showcasing, as well as displaying Beijing 2022 merchandise via cloud shelf through its TMall eCommerce platform.

Carl Lamiel
Carl writes for WalasTech when he's not working full-time. Give him tips and/or leads at [email protected].