The Expanding Market for Digital Humans: Opportunities, Trends and Ethical Considerations


The Expanding Market for Digital Humans: Opportunities, Trends and Ethical Considerations

The market for digital humans, also known as virtual humans or AI avatars, is expanding at a rapid pace and expected to reach new heights in the coming years. As per industry forecasts, the global market could hit $527 billion by 2030. Gartner projects that by 2035, the “digital human economy” will represent a $125 billion market on its own. The growth has already been stunning, with some segments of the market seeing over 40% compound annual growth rates recently.

Much of the cutting-edge development in the market currently is happening in China, where major tech conglomerates like Tencent, Alibaba, and Baidu have been investing heavily in virtual human technologies. The market just for digital humans in China alone is expected to reach 270 billion yuan ($38 billion) in 2023. Chinese companies are pioneering applications like AI customer service agents, virtual influencers, and interactive gaming avatars that leverage natural language processing and emotional intelligence to provide remarkably humanlike interactions.

Several key factors are driving the skyrocketing demand for digital humans globally. Firstly, businesses realize that customers often prefer interacting with lifelike avatars over basic chatbots or recorded messages. Retailers are discovering that shoppers feel more comfortable getting style or product recommendations from a digital store attendant that appears as human as possible. The financial sector also sees opportunities to boost trust and brand perception by incorporating virtual advisors or spokespeople equipped with financial expertise. Secondly, digital humans are filling genuine labor shortages in sectors like healthcare and education. For instance, an AI-avatar of a renowned, overworked surgeon could help diagnose hundreds of patients a day. Finally, the metaverse boom is integrating digital humans into new environments where traditional advertising falls flat. Brands can build interactive virtual stores and deploy influential virtual celebs to market products in creative new ways.

The companies experiencing the most success creating and implementing digital human technology provide customizable, interactive platforms to give brands control over crafting unique avatars. A one-size-fits-all approach fails to connect emotionally with consumers. Leading solutions enable clients to adjust attributes like facial expressions, voice tones, language capabilities and reactions to queries. This ensures the avatar aligns seamlessly with the brand identity. There is especially high demand for digital human twins that feel like an authentic representation of a real-world spokesperson.

While the opportunities abound for digital humans to enhance customer experiences and brand exposure, ethical questions around their development and application raise growing concerns. Criticisms revolve around the possibility of manipulating human emotions by engineering overly charming avatars devoid of authenticity. And programming digital humans to handle sensitive tasks like medical diagnoses or financial transactions remains extremely complex. There are calls for greater regulation and oversight as companies increasingly offload responsibilities to intelligent virtual entities without complete understanding of their decision-making capacities and potential biases. Getting the right balance between effectively leveraging AI capabilities and maintaining ethical standards is critical as the digital human economy blossoms into a reality over the next decade.