The past 2021 is called the first year of metaverse. On this new track, VR, AR, Mr, XR and other virtual reality technologies are booming, making people feel more immersed in the game; 5g transmission, interactive technology and artificial intelligence enrich high-quality and unique digital content; Digital financial technologies such as blockchain and NFT have stimulated the popularity of digital collections.
In addition to the above, metaverse also has a huge potential development space, that is, virtual human.
A number of virtual people have sprung up. Ann Weixi, a virtual human of China Unicom 5g + AI future image creation center, has outstanding musical talent. Hua Zhibing, a virtual female student of Tsinghua University, enrolled in Tsinghua computer department. At the 2022 New Year Concert of Jiangsu Satellite TV, the virtual human “Deng Lijun” sang with Zhou Shen across time and space. The Hunan Satellite TV variety “Hello, Saturday” used the digital host “Xiaoyang” as the resident host, Angie, who is tiktok with the curling hair, has become the official judge of Zhong Xue Gao (Chinese style ice cream brand).
Not only in China, overseas virtual human lil Miquela is known as the first CGI (computer generated image) fashion icon in history. She is extremely popular on instagram and has more than three million fans. She has also been selected into the “most influential people on the Internet” list of time together with trump and Rihanna. Miquela once fell in love with a real-life model Nick. After dating for half a year, they broke up. Miquela tweeted that she was vulnerable after the breakup. I’m not familiar with all these emotional things. I still have a lot to learn. I’m not ready. How lonely I will feel when we leave.
I can’t help thinking, will 2022 be the first year of virtual human? Real humans and the virtual humans they created are forming new social relations. All kinds of virtual people will become the first indigenous people of metaverse to build a post human society on the virtual new world.
According to the definition of cheetah Research Institute, virtual human refers to a virtual character with digital shape created through computer graphics, graphics rendering, motion capture, in-depth learning, speech synthesis and other technologies. The virtual human is characterized by:
First, it exists in the non physical world and presents the image relying on the display device. It is a virtual image existing in the digital world.
Second, it has specific human design, character and ability, which can make users believe in their existence.
Third, it can produce two-way interaction with users.
In my opinion, virtual human can be divided into two categories:
One is the virtualization of real people, that is, the digital separation of real people in the virtual world; The other is the realization of virtual people, that is, the real presentation of virtual people in the real world.
Virtual human based on real human prototype creation, also known as real person driven virtual human, takes real person as the basic core and forms its own virtual avatar on the network.
This category can be roughly divided into three sub categories.
The first sub category is the 1:1 perfect reproduction of real people in the virtual world. You can think of it as a metaverse version of “true and false Monkey King”. Users can create as like as two peas virtual human by 3D modeling, motion capture and rendering technology.
During this year’s national two sessions, the central video launched the “Ai crown”, which has a natural broadcasting tone and rich expression. It is a 1:1 clone copy of the crown, a financial commentator of the Central Radio and television, which makes it difficult to distinguish between true and false. Not only that, “Ai crown” also has “separation”, which can establish exclusive model “programs” in mobile app, Web terminal, H5 applet, etc. In my opinion, isn’t this the “journey to the west” in which the monkey king pulled out his hair and performed the great part of the universal divine Dharma?
The second category is the cartoon image similar to itself created by real people in the virtual world, similar to the image of memojis. In March 2021, Microsoft officially released a new hybrid reality collaboration platform (Microsoft mesh). By wearing the AR device hololens2, we can set up a virtual image and work together with others in a common space to discuss or complete the design. In the promotional film, we can see that engineers or medical students who repair electric vehicle engines or study human anatomy can appear in the shared virtual space and gather around the holographic model to operate the engine or dissect human muscles freely, no matter where they are.
A similar application is the horizon world application of meta company. In metaverse of meta, people need to create an avatar to represent themselves, and these avatars can go anywhere in the virtual world – visiting friends, attending meetings or concerts, and dining with friends from other countries. Everyone who has used it knows that the virtual human in it has a defect and has no feet. This is because it is very difficult to accurately track leg movement. Only from the physical point of view, the existing head display basically can not achieve this.
The third sub category is the virtual person that the real person creates in the virtual world and has nothing to do with himself. We can see it as the reconstructed real me: a completely different digital avatar.
The unreal engine platform of American Epic Games company has released a new tool “Metahuman creator”, which can help us easily create and customize realistic virtual human, including making game characters that can amaze players and using digital avatars that can stand the test of close-up lens in the latest virtual production scenes, Or add incredibly trusted virtual participants to the immersive training environment.
Maybe one day in the future, real people in the real world can have one or more virtual people in metaverse. We constantly upload, update and iterate our self data to construct another “me” in the virtual world. At the same time, in the future, virtual separation will become a new consumer. We use virtual separation for social networking, shopping, entertainment, tourism and even production. Under different supervision modes, the relationship between virtual identity and real identity may be “virtual in the foreground, real name in the background” or anonymous. These virtual people feed on data and blur the boundary between the two worlds in their continuous interaction with the real world.
The second category of virtual human does not belong to any real human in the real world, but a realistic digital character created through technology and operation, similar to the well-known NPC in the game (non player character refers to the game character not controlled by real players in video games).
The realization of such virtual human can also be called artificial intelligence driven virtual human. Its essence is artificial intelligence with customized virtual appearance, which drives the continuous evolution of its voice, facial expression and body movement through deep learning technology.
For example, ayayi, Liu Yexi and Hua Zhibing, a virtual student of Tsinghua University, are the real applications of this type of virtual human in the fields of entertainment, games and teaching.
In this large category of virtual human, we can be divided into two sub categories, IP and non IP. IP class usually goes to virtual idol, virtual spokesperson, etc., while non IP class is service-oriented, which is used to replace or assist human beings to complete some work. The main application directions are virtual customer service, virtual assistant, virtual live broadcast, etc.
In 2007, Japan’s kripton future media company launched the virtual singer’s first voice future. Once launched, it was very popular, which can be regarded as the ancestor of IP virtual people as virtual idol stars.
Recently, a IP video named “Liu yxi” has released a video. The hero Liu Yexi appeared on the tiktok with a virtual character, and he played a story of “catching the devil” with a real person. Liu Yexi rose nearly 8 million fans after publishing only three videos, and was praised as the “head flower” and “ceiling” created by metaverse video. Behind the overnight popularity, it is enough to prove that the current technologies such as real-life CG, engine modeling, rendering and motion capture have been able to complete highly simulated virtual human, and the era of rough modeling and mapping has been gradually far away from us.
If Liu Yexi is the representative of IP virtual human, then the representative of non IP virtual human should be Cui Xiaopan, the winner of the best newcomer award of Vanke headquarters in 2021. She is the first digital employee of Vanke. Her main work is to remind invoices and money recovery matters, upload and manage business licenses, and remind employees to maintain social security accumulation fund information. Many Vanke employees didn’t know that the colleague who emailed them was not a real person before she won the award. Yu Liang, chairman of the board of directors of Vanke Group, introduced in the circle of friends: Cui Xiaopan, with the blessing of the system algorithm, “She soon learned how to find problems in the process and data, and showed her skill in various receivable / overdue reminders and work anomaly detection with thousands of times higher efficiency than human beings. With the help of her virtual character rendered by deep neural network technology, the write off rate of overdue prepaid receivable documents urged by her reached 91.44%.”
Of course, the birth and development of virtual human is not as beneficial as what we discussed above. It will put forward new problems for traditional morality and Ethics: when virtual anthropomorphism develops to the point where “human essence” can be changed, that is, the arrival of post human, human and virtual human may become Superman. However, we should not become slaves of scientific and technological progress, otherwise we may return to the hierarchical society of the law of the jungle.
Francis, the famous sociologist, proposed that the future of technology could have the greatest consequences, “Humanity will eventually be hollowed out by biotechnology, which will lead us into the post human historical era”.
In the metaverse era, when we face the famous tram problem again – do we have to pull the turnout to turn the tram to the fork road, kill one person and save five people on the road? Or, do you want to push the fat man off the bridge, block the tram and save the five people? We may have a more difficult choice. In this problem, we may no longer face human beings, but a virtual human.
(the author Hu Yi is the director of Wuxi big data administration bureau)