Funeral service provider releases digital tribute plans

Hu Min
Fu Shou Yuan International Group, China's largest cemetery and funeral service provider, released a raft of digital plans as China's interment and funeral industry is reshaped.
Hu Min
Funeral service provider releases digital tribute plans
Ti Gong

An artist's rendition shows a virtual memorial site.

With digital technologies being increasingly applied in many areas, China's traditional interment and funeral industry is being reshaped in a revolutionary way, bringing healing comfort to those who have lost their loved ones and easing their pain.

Thursday is this year's Qingming Festival, or Tomb-Sweeping Day, a traditional Chinese festival during which people pay tribute to the dead and worship their ancestors. To mark the day, a raft of digital application plans was released by Fu Shou Yuan International Group, China's largest cemetery and funeral service provider.

In an appropriately unique fashion, the plans were not released by a person but by a "digital human" named Jason, who stood on a round stage rising slowly from a lake in a virtual blossoming forest, amid a gentle spring breeze, the twittering of birds and fields of flowers.

With the rapid development of generative AI technology, the cost of digital human creation has been significantly cut, according to the group.

Funeral service provider releases digital tribute plans
Ti Gong

A digital scene that was shown at the release.

With only one photo and a one-minute voice record, third-generation digital human technology can synthesize videos of corresponding characters with a foundation model and manipulate the movement of body and mouth, the group said.

It has assisted more than 10 families nationwide who wished to experience "digital life" technology added to a traditional funeral service, making a "digital human" a "spiritual partner" conveying love and hope and helping the bereaved through the grief and loss.

"AI technology has reproduced the voice, appearance, traits, and even thinking patterns of the deceased," explained Fan Jun, vice president of the group.

Based on materials and stories of the deceased, a "digital person" is created. A personalized memorial service is then arranged.

Funeral service provider releases digital tribute plans
Ti Gong

A 'digital human' named Jason presented the plans, against an idyllic virtual background.

"I think it's a way to help people get through the grieving period and relieve their ache to some extent, and it offers a warm comfort," said resident Yang Ying who would be willing to try such an experience.

Digital and holographic projection technologies will also be utilized during memorial services with immersive interactive scenes created in virtual memorial venues, and the construction of a "paradise community" will be launched.

Within three years, the digital collection of the data of 300,000 deceased people will be completed under the program, and a memorial recording system will be established, aimed to provide emotionally healing comfort for those left behind.

An AI biography compiling system has also been developed and, within several minutes, the system can produce a vivid audio-visual biography of the deceased based on interaction with their families and relevant photos.

"Digital technologies have endowed the funeral and interment industry with spiritual cultural meaning and legacy," Fan said.

The digital upgrade of the traditional cemetery and funeral industry is also deemed a "green and ecological" approach.

In Beijing, five cemeteries have launched a "digital cemetery" trial.

Unlike traditional cemeteries, there is an electronic screen above each grave that can screen the image and voice of the deceased, and augmented reality and VR technologies have been introduced, enabling interaction for those visiting the grave.

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