Alibaba virtual influencer hypes up Winter Olympics for digital natives

Alibaba Group, a Worldwide TOP Partner of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), brought the possibilities of cloud-based innovation closer to consumers with cloud technology-based “Dong Dong,” a virtual influencer for the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022. 

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 designed with “authentic human-like features, sparkling personality, as well as her specialty to interact with audiences in an engaging manner.”

Xiaolong Li, leader of Alibaba Virtual Human and Intelligent Customer Service, said they 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.

Dong Dong is not only promoting Olympic merchandise which can be bought in the official Olympic shop in China on Tmall during her dedicated livestreaming 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 performed live talk shows to introduce Olympic fun facts to the audience, and showed off her 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. 

Alibaba’s multimodal algorithms, which leverage Natural Language Processing (NLP), Emotional Speech Synthesis and computer vision on the cloud, were used to make Dong Dong “smart enough to take part in human-like dialogues naturally, with her scripts entirely generated by cloud technologies.   

“Digital personas or virtual influencers will find new ways to engage with their audience through immersive experiences or a metaverse-style setting, whether during large-scale, global sports events like the Olympic Games, virtual conferences or 3D exhibition tours,” said Li. “In addition, they can also be very helpful with their practical capability as diligent, smart and efficient assistants to the reporters.”

Other creative technologies designed to support engagement with Olympic fans were also been unveiled during Beijing 2022. 

These include Cloud Showcasing, a virtual exhibition to introduce the Olympic Partners and for the Olympic fans to win souvenirs through gamifications and lucky draws, and Cloud Official Olympic Store on Tmall. Alibaba’s e-commerce platform Tmall displayed Beijing 2022 merchandise through Alibaba’s cloud-shelf technology in more than 7,000 stores across China.