Founded by Jack Ma in 1999, Alibaba is China’s largest ecommerce company. It owns the shopping site Taobao, well known for its annual Singles Day mega sales -- which is bigger than Black Friday.
On a screen at an annual Alibaba event, a Taobao live streaming star was seen promoting products like eye drops and instant noodles. But it wasn't a real live stream -- it was a demonstration of an AI-generated avatar featuring the face and voice of Li Jiaqi, a Chinese influencer who has more than 6 million followers on both Taobao and Xiaohongshu.
The tech behind the synthetic version of Li was created by AI company iFlytek, and it’s similar to the tech used to generate deepfake videos. While some Weibo commenters say the avatar looks lifelike, many also say that it has dead eyes and lacks the enthusiasm of the real live streamer.
China is actively exploring commercial use cases for synthetic media. With the help of tech company Sogou, state media outlet Xinhua created AI anchors based on real human anchors, but the fake ones can broadcast news 24/7. An app that lets users swap faces with celebrities also went viral earlier this month, triggering concerns about privacy.