China embraces AI with social apps like Soul App

According to a forecast released by a Beijing think tank, by 2025, China’s generative AI market is expected to soar to a massive 30 trillion RMB or 4.2 trillion USD. This will put the country’s generative AI sector at a third of the value of the global generative AI market. 

China embraces AI with social apps like Soul App

The AI frenzy in China was a result of the introduction of OpenAI’s ChatGPT in late 2022, which gave the world a taste of what AI was capable of. The transformative LLM radically metamorphosed how many business processes were handled. And there has been no looking back since then.

The keenness to join the AI race and capitalize on the artificial intelligence wave led to a proliferation of similar technologies all across the world. Not one to be left behind, China has seen its own AI market being created and growing at an exemplary pace.

Currently, the key players in the Chinese tech industry, include Tencent, Baidu, Alibaba, ByteDance, iFlyTek, and SenseTime. These companies have jumped on the AI bandwagon, with their own AI offerings, specifically created for the domestic market. These tech giants are using the “It all begins at home” approach by piloting the use and integration of AI across their organizational processes. This allows them to demonstrate the potential of the technology to enhance operational efficiency in the real-world scenario.

But in the meanwhile, social apps are the ones which youngsters use the most. So we can see Soul App, a popular social app among China’s Gen Z, and some other platforms in the social networking industry were quick to adopt AI since the nascent stages of the technology.

Founded in 2016, the app did not take long to find favor with China’s Zoomers, partly because of its unique approach to digital social interactions and also in part because of its innovative use of AI.  Back in 2015, the founder of Soul, Zhang Lu realized the limitations of traditional social media platforms.

China embraces AI with social apps like Soul App

At the time, the social networking space in China was dominated by Qzone, a Tencent website that allowed users to share posts and Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter, which was a mouthpiece for influencers and celebrities who could leverage their fans following for user-generated content.

Simply put, there weren’t a lot of options for regular folks that allowed them a space to express themselves without judgment. The founder of Soul recognized this gap and set about to fill it in a meaningful way. And that is what led to the creation of the app.

The platform was meant to provide a much-needed sense of belonging to individuals who were experiencing the common yet overwhelming feeling of loneliness as they waded through life’s ups and downs. The desire to make an inclusive virtual haven available to users that encouraged them to express their thoughts and emotions based on common interests while building up spiritual links is what ultimately offered the inspiration for building Soul App.

But, this behooved the question - How can the platform find and connect individuals with shared interests? The answer lay in what was then an up-and-coming technology- Artificial Intelligence. The platform tapped into the power of AI to decode the personality of users as well as their likes, dislikes, and interests right from the point of registration. The method continues to be used on Soul to this day and given the core idea of the platform.

When users register on Soul, the first step involves taking the “Soul test”. This is a form of preliminary segregation based on overall personality types and likes and dislikes. The answers determine which “Planet” the users are designated to. Because the test only entails answering 5 questions, it barely takes a minute or two to get through it.

This is on top of features that allow users to add some tags for themselves. Users select tags from categories like interests, hobbies, movies, music, etc. AI algorithms analyze these tags to identify and match users with similar preferences. Moreover, based on this information and with the assistance of an AI-powered relationship recommendation engine called “灵犀” (líng xī, or intuitive connections), users further build their relationships at a later stage.

Also, optional personality tests on the platform provide deeper insights into traits and values. AI compares these results to find compatible matches based on personality types. Furthermore, users answer curated questions chosen by AI to refine their understanding of their interests and conversation starters. Because AI suggests potential friends and content based on taste, personality, and interests, among other deep-seated characteristics, it gives users more confidence that their matches are not random and have a decent chance of success.

But, Soul’s use of AI percolates beyond just matching people based on shared traits. The platform also uses the technology for enhancing content recommendation, and fostering experience creation and social asset accumulation among China’s youngsters:

  1. Content recommendation: When it comes to curating content for “Soul Square” a feature that is like the “Moments” feature on WeChat, a sophisticated recommendation system is employed that analyzes user behavior, preferences, and characteristics to recommend the posts released by other users while highly relevant to their interests. Whenever a user spots any post that could interest himself or herself, the user can step further and say hi to the user who sent out that post. It goes without saying that such content recommendations lead to a more enjoyable experience and greater engagement.
  2. Social Assets: Soul has since 2023 launched new features such as smart chatbot “AI Goudan”, AI Singer, AI Drawing, and AI Avatar Generation, offering its users magical experiences: they can have a real-time conversation with their personalized chatbot, and receive random comments left by Goudan on their posts; upload a 30-second unaccompanied singing sample, hit the one-click “Voice Cloning” button, and enjoy a hit song sung in their own voice with perfect pitch and tone; take a selfie and convert it into different styles of avatars… Such unique forms of interaction offered by Soul will help users amass social assets that they can share with others, including social profiles and content co-created with AI, increasing personal network expansion. All this will form the bedrock of the social metaverse – a new social era to which Soul is opening the gates. 

Soul has taken its commitment to offering an optimized user experience further by employing a multitude of online social interaction scenarios and by continuously driving the innovation of the platform’s features by using AIGC technology. The idea is to ensure that the features of the app are aligned with the interests of its young user base.

Looking ahead, Soul App aims to further integrate AIGC technology, specifically when it comes to intelligent dialogue and assisted creation. Because AI can be leveraged to reduce entry barriers, Soul is using the technology to simplify and increase user participation in building, maintaining, and growing its content ecosystem, thus helping users to recognize and value the role of their interests in creating their very own digital social space.