E-commerce giant Alibaba creates virtual idol to promote Olympics merchandise

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd (9988.HK) has released a virtual idol promoting the 2022 Beijing Olympics, riding on a trend that has swept China.

Named “Dong Dong,” the virtual idol, a computer-generated character, is “a passionate, Beijing-born 22-year-old woman who loves winter sports,” according to Alibaba’s description.

Since early February she has appeared in nightly broadcasts via Taobao Live, Alibaba’s livestreaming services.

In her hours-long livestreaming sessions, Dong Dong can be seen sharing bits of Olympics-related trivia, promoting Olympics-related merchandise, and dancing.

Dong Dong was created by DAMO Academy, Alibaba’s research arm for advanced technology.

Virtual idols have gained massive popularity in China over the past few years. Chinese consultancy iiMedia estimated that the virtual idol market in China would reach a value of 6.22 billion yuan ($978 million) in 2021.

Among the most famous virtual idols is Luo Tianyi, a pop singer with over 5 million followers on China’s Twitter-esque social media site Weibo.

Created by Shangha-based Shanghai-based Henian Information Technology Co. Ltd, Luo Tianyi performed an original Olympics-themed song during the run-up to the games.

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