And we’re soooo here for it.
By the end of this decade, avatars are set to outnumber living individuals, marking an extraordinary shift in the internet.
Consider the number of players in 3D games and online virtual worlds, each embodying at least one avatar. The console market alone accounts for 150–200 million players, with additional half a billion people engaged in Fortnite and Roblox. Not to mention the 10 million (or more) avatars potentially thriving within Meta’s universe.
And let’s not overlook 3D mobile games, where countless phone users actively participate with avatars. A conservative estimate suggests that at least a billion avatars are already in existence across these platforms.
We also shouldn’t confine our perspective to individuals simultaneously playing a single game. People engage in various games over time, embodying multiple avatars. If we consider the cumulative impact, multiplying the figure by 5 or even 10 is more representative of the true scope.
Think about non-playable characters (NPCs) within these games, which, when counted alongside avatars, confront us with the reality that avatars could outnumber living people by a factor of 10 to 1000 times.
Lastly, let’s talk about the prospect of our own immortality through avatars. By 2030, it is highly likely that loved ones or even companies will preserve our essence as life-like avatars after we pass away. This phenomenon will forever tip the scale, with avatars surpassing the number of living individuals at any given moment. Even if we achieve interoperability and reduce our personal avatars to 3 to 4 (one for work, games, socializing, etc.), they will still be overshadowed by the multitude of non-living avatars lingering in the digital realm.
The Japanese VTuber Phenomenon: A Glimpse into Avatar-Driven Entertainment
While the proliferation of avatars is an undeniable force, one country has already taken a substantial leap into this future. Over the last few years, Japan has birthed a fast-growing industry known as VTubers, short for “virtual YouTubers.”
VTubers are virtual entertainers who captivate and engage their fans from behind digital avatars, but using the voice of a real human. By assuming the physical identity of their avatars, VTubers breathe life into digital characters, fostering a sense of intimacy and companionship among their fan base.
But here’s the catch: the VTuber industry is not without its challenges. Creating compelling content as a VTuber requires a significant investment of time, effort, and resources. Human operators must diligently live stream, animate, and interact with their audiences, often adhering to strict streaming schedules and maintaining a consistent online presence. This process limits the scalability and growth potential of VTubers, as the human factor inevitably restricts the number of individuals who can operate as VTubers at any given time.
Automating Avatar Personalities
Amidst these challenges lies a massive opportunity: helping entertainers automate their avatars. Imagine a future where avatars can independently operate, freeing human entertainers from the burdens of constant interaction. We believe this technology could usher in a new era of avatar-driven entertainment.
Developments in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning hold the key to unlocking this potential. By training avatars with distinct personalities and imbuing them with human-like intelligence, we can empower these digital entities to navigate virtual worlds, interact with fans, and even produce content autonomously. This not only enhances the scalability and growth prospects of avatar-driven industries but also opens the doors to new forms of entertainment and engagement.
“Within the next 20 years, I think there will be very few, if any, human streamers. It is impossible to compete with an AI that does not need to eat, sleep, take breaks, earn a salary and can constantly ingest sentiment data from the viewers to react and be perfectly funny, perfectly intelligent, perfectly sympathetic, and perfectly happy.” — Andrew Steinwold
By harnessing the power of AI, we can also develop sophisticated algorithms that enable avatars to learn and adapt, generating content that resonates with audiences on a deeply personal level. This fusion of human creativity and technological innovation paves the way for a future where avatars seamlessly blend into our lives, becoming trusted companions, entertainers, and even confidants.