As we enter 2022, I feel it is time to talk about the real-life application of virtual human. Other than entering the mirage of rich and perfect Metaverse, virtual human has actually started to fulfill the need of real world where manpower is lacking.
2019 7-Eleven incident in East Osaka, Japan is still in legal procedure, both sides unwilling to give-in. It is about a 7-Eleven franchise owner, who could not maintain 24-hour operation due to serious lack of manpower. In 2012, he began to appeal to the Headquarters of 7-Eleven Japan, but failed to get an approval of adjusting its operational hour.
Declining birthrate and social change have brought serious impact on the traditional operational model. Virtual human as a core, set up a remote virtual human service center, build up a system which can simultaneously serve multiple stores, pair up with voice activated virtual human to integrate. Such system can dramatically decrease human power for servicing customers at the store end. In addition, maybe some scheduled or spontaneous performances powered by Nakanohito (meaning the person inside actor behind virtual human) can add some warmth to serving the customers. Wouldn't you agree this solution can be a big win-win-win all around?
Taking care of elders is another difficult problem as the society move towards population ageing. Nurse’s occupational burnout can easily occur due to forgetfulness of elders, which result in repeating the same story numerous times or same problem happening over and over again. Even with a big heart, one’s kindness can wear off eventually. In such situation, familiar animation(virtual) character from elder’s childhood memory powered by AI can be a big help. It never gets tired from being asked the same question even 1000 times! Not only the number of care givers, but also burn out rate can be decreased significantly. For the elders, psychological burden of asking for help can be avoided and at the same time, preserve their dignity.
Currently, application of virtual human is mostly limited to entertainment industry in Japan, China, or North America. It is mostly used to attract quick attention and no benefit to the society. Virtual human can proceed to make contact with various industries. Through integration of new technological applications, virtual human could effectively improve and solve problems human society faces today and it is a next logical step waiting to happen.
Asian Virtual Human Association
Taiwan VTuber Association
Article initially published on the website “Common Wealth” in Chinese: