The overworked humans behind China’s virtual influencers

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Over the past decade, entertainment companies in China and Japan have increasingly invested in developing virtual talent: pop stars that appear on stage via hologram, animated personalities who livestream themselves playing games and chatting with fans, brand influencers powered by teams of computer scientists and voice actors. Last year, the value of business driven by virtual idols was $16 billion in China alone, according to research from iiMedia.

YouTuber Akuma and Chinese pop star Luo Tianyi are both virtual idols. Marketing agencies in China bet big that these digital influencers represented the future of celebrity, with their looks and words carefully crafted and controlled by branding agencies and corporations.