E-commerce giant Alibaba creates virtual idol to promote Olympic products

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd has released a virtual idol promoting the 2022 Beijing Olympics, following a trend that has swept across China.

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

Since early February, she has appeared in nightly shows through Taobao Live, Alibaba’s live streaming services.

During her hours-long livestream sessions, Dong Dong can be seen sharing Olympics-related trivia, promoting Olympics-related merchandise, and dancing.

Dong Dong was established by DAMO Academy, Alibaba’s research arm for advanced technologies.

Virtual idols have gained popularity in China in recent years. Chinese consultancy iiMedia estimated that the virtual idol market in China will 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 more than 5 million followers on Chinese social media site Weibo.

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

($1 = 6.3621 Chinese yuan renminbi)

(Reporting by Josh Horwitz; editing by Richard Pullin)