China’s iQiyi Banks on Virtual Assistant to Sell More VR Headsets

Boosting VR headset sales has proven to be a rather steep challenge. This is the case in most countries, including China. However, Baidu’s iQiyi unit is looking to boost sales through the use of a digital girlfriend. More specifically, giving people access to such a virtual girlfriend would make them less lonely. An interesting approach, although it may not necessarily boost sales figures.

China’s Desperation to Sell VR Headsets

All social stigmas regarding VR aside, this latest marketing effort by iQiyi will raise a lot of eyebrows. The company is venturing down a very slippery slope with their approach revolving around virtual girlfriends. More specifically, the company has built a VR girlfriend for all headsets, known as Vivi. The goal of this creation is to entice more 18-35 year-olds to buy the iQiyi VR headset. It is a solid concept on paper, even though the company will face some social backlash over this method, for obvious reasons.

Vivi has seen a few different iterations over the past few months. Her current form is that of a Girl Friday who will be accessible on a 24-7 basis. For most owners of the company’s VR headset, Vivi provides them with a listening ear, a fun conversational partner, or just pretty eye candy to look at. Moreover, she serves as a digital assistant who can talk about movies and games, and share her opinions with the user. It is a different type of immersive experience and one that may effectively drive VR headset sales.

There are plenty of VR headset owners in China who stay at home most of the day. A virtual companion can fill a void left behind by family members gone to work or the lack of a life partner. While people in the West will frown upon this concept, it is socially acceptable in China. There’s also a certain role-playing aspect of this interaction, which will attract a lot of people looking to experiment with this technology. iQiyi is setting a rather interesting precedent in this regard, but their effort may pay off in the long run.

Additionally, iQiyi sees Vivi as an assistant to access the company’s content based on which videos the user likes to watch. Moreover, she is more than capable of flirting, complimenting a user’s look, and she can be “touched” in VR, but not in an inappropriate manner. It may not necessarily be the killer app VR needs to gain global traction, but it may certainly shake things up in China in the future.Their VR headset still costs $529, though, which is on the expensive side of the spectrum.

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