But with large language models and text-to-speech technologies, these AI streamers can say whatever you want them to say—meaning they can speak other languages too.
Just last week a new AI-translation product was blowing up on social media: LA-based HeyGen launched a tool that translates video into seven different languages, clones the speaker’s voice, and syncs the speaker’s lips so everything looks natural. The result (including translation to Hindi, the only non-Western language offered now) is surprisingly good!
With tools like this, it’s no longer necessary to find local talent for livestreams. “Language is actually an advantage of virtual streamers [compared to humans]. Many of our clients are interested in doing cross-border e-commerce in Southeast Asia. The demand is very high,” says Huang Wei, the director of virtual influencer livestreaming business at the Chinese AI company Xiaoice.
Xiaoice and Quantum Planet now work together to pitch these AI streamers to Chinese clients. Their virtual streamers can speak 129 languages, including English and a few Southeast Asian languages, like Vietnamese, Thai, and Indonesian.
In March, they used a Thai-speaking AI streamer for the first time to sell furniture for a Chinese company, and sold $2,000 worth of products in an hour. I asked a native Thai speaker to watch a clip and assess the quality of the AI; he told me the intonation was so impressively natural that he almost thought it had to be the result of voice dubbing.
There’s also an English version so you can judge for yourself, although I don’t think it’s on par with the Chinese or Thai versions.
Obviously the AI won’t be able to do everything a human streamer can, especially testing products in real time in response to audience questions, but it suits the companies that are just looking to break into a new market and not spend too much money for the risky venture. As the Chinese publication Huxiu reports, the monthly salary for a local streamer in Indonesia is almost the same as the cost for customizing an AI streamer, and in the long term, it costs much less to reuse the AI than to keep a real person on the payroll. Plus, the result is better than most people expect.
Could this mean that livestream e-commerce will finally get popular outside China? I’d be very cautious and say that it probably won’t be the case soon. But I do think AI could help Chinese companies expand globally by overcoming language and cultural barriers. And either way, it’s clear the technology of synthetic media is moving ahead at an incredibly fast pace, so it may only be a matter of time before Chinese e-commerce companies can finally capitalize on it.