In an era where the metaverse is swiftly becoming a central hub for social, economic, and artistic activities, the rise of virtual humans or 'digital avatars' has paved the way for an unprecedented integration of technology and lifestyle. This trend has become particularly irresistible to Gen Z, a generation that's grown up deeply intertwined with the digital realm.
The Meteoric Rise of Virtual Humans
According to Emergen Research, the global digital human market is projected to skyrocket with a whopping CAGR of 46.4%, amounting to an estimated $527.58 billion by 2030. One cannot overlook the magnetism that these virtual entities possess, especially amongst Gen Z. For them, the line between the virtual and real has always been blurred. As a result, they're more willing than any previous generation to let these digital avatars into their lives.
As AI, computer graphics, and motion capture technology advances, the boundary distinguishing these virtual entities from real humans is diminishing rapidly. China, already a tech behemoth, is expected to have its virtual human market soar to $42.58 billion by 2030.
One intriguing facet of this trend is the emergence of virtual celebrities. These entities are not merely limited to passive advertisements but are actively driving cultural shifts. They command significant followers on platforms like YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, and more. Just consider the Hype Auditor study, which reveals that virtual influencers have an engagement rate that's three times higher than their human counterparts.
Bridging Virtual and Reality: The Case of 'Imperfect' Influencers
In an audacious move challenging societal norms, 'imperfect' virtual influencer Angie has emerged from China. Sporting creased makeup, acne scars, and other 'imperfections', Angie's unique avatar has garnered a staggering 280,000 followers. It’s evident that Gen Z, especially in Asian markets, resonates with her relatability, challenging traditional beauty ideals.
Virtual Celebrities: The New Frontier
It's not just unknown avatars making waves in the metaverse. Big names like Snoop Dogg and Paris Hilton are establishing their own digital domains. Snoop Dogg, for instance, has his "Snoopverse", a digital enclave mirroring his lavish Californian mansion. Paris Hilton isn’t far behind, having created her digital oasis on Roblox. Such ventures hint at the unlimited potential the metaverse holds for artists to reinvent their connection with fans.
The Digital Twin Phenomenon
Perhaps the most futuristic application of this trend lies in the concept of 'Digital Twins'. These virtual simulacrums, replicating physical entities down to minute details, are poised to revolutionize sectors from wellness to surgery. Imagine predicting the long-term effects of a skincare product or a supplement on one's body through its digital twin. Or, fathom the impact of conducting a surgery on a digital replica before the actual procedure, substantially reducing risks.
Companies like Unlearn.AI and Virtonomy are already venturing into this territory, harnessing AI and predictive analytics to refine clinical interventions and trials. The fusion of virtual models with advanced analytics is on the cusp of radically transforming our approach to health and wellness.
The virtual domain is not just another digital trend; it's a monumental shift in how we perceive, interact, and integrate technology into our lives. For Gen Z, who are at the forefront of this evolution, virtual humans are more than digital constructs; they are reflections, companions, and, in some instances, aspirational entities. As we continue to traverse this digital age, the line between our virtual and real selves might just become an ancient relic of the past.
Picture: Jesse Zhang