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Alibaba unveils ‘Virtual Influencer’ for 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games

February 10, 2022 8:48 p.m.

 ALIBABA Group, a Worldwide TOP Partner of the International Olympic Committee, has unveiled its brand-new virtual influencer for the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 (“Games”). Based on cloud technology, Dong Dong, the advanced digital persona created by Alibaba to engage with fans, brings the possibilities of cloud-based innovation closer to consumers. 

Developed by Alibaba DAMO Academy, Alibaba Group’s global research initiative, Dong Dong was created to be a passionate, outspoken Beijing-born 22-year-old woman, who loves winter sports.

To better connect with Olympic fans, especially the younger, tech-savvy generation, Dong Dong is known for her authentic human-like features, sparkling personality, as well as her specialty to interact with audiences in an engaging manner.

Among her many talents, Dong Dong is not only going to promote Olympic merchandise which can be bought in the official Olympic shop in China on Tmall during her dedicated livestreaming shows, but she can also respond to questions in a lively, natural human voice with different emotions, along with various body gestures from giving a thumbs-up to posting heart-shape gesture and wiping away tears of disappointment.

In addition, she can perform live talk shows to introduce Olympic fun facts to the audience, and show-off her enthusiastic, upbeat dance moves to accompany the Olympic theme songs to cheer for the Olympians. All these engaging interactions are powered by cloud-based digital technologies.

“Our ambition is to use cloud technology to give the Olympic Winter Games a digital uplift and to deliver Olympic Winter Games experiences relating to cloud and e-commerce platform services to fans in a creative way. That’s why we developed Dong Dong, with the hope that the cloud-based virtual influencer can create better engagement with the younger, digital natives in an exciting and natural way,” said Xiaolong Li, Leader of Alibaba Virtual Human & Intelligent Customer Service.

To realize Dong Dong’s dynamic personality, human-like glamour and natural voice, Alibaba built a special cloud-based AI model, which uses Text to Speech to synthesize human voices and leverages 3D-driven technology to create various realistic facial expressions and natural body movements.

Powered by cloud computing and AI technologies, Dong Dong can look, speak and act like a young woman with lively personality.

Meanwhile, Alibaba’s multimodal algorithms, which leverage Natural Language Processing (NLP), Emotional Speech Synthesis and computer vision on the cloud, have been used to make Dong Dong ‘smart’ enough to take part in human-like dialogues naturally, with her scripts entirely generated by cloud technologies.   

“In the future, we will push technology boundaries even further to create an enthralling mixed reality. Digital personas or virtual influencers will find new ways to engage with their audience through immersive experiences or a metaverse-style setting, whether during large-scale, global sports events like the Olympic Games, virtual conferences or 3D exhibition tours. In addition, they can also be very helpful with their practical capability as diligent, smart and efficient assistants to the reporters,” Li added. 

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Crossovers seek PVL redemption in Invitationals

July 5, 2022 7:01 p.m.
Games Saturday
2:30 p.m. – Cignal HD vs Army
5:30 p.m. – Choco Mucho vs Chery Tiggo

From top to near-bottom, Chery Tiggo believes there’s no way to go but up as the Crossovers seek to get over the hump of their Premier Volleyball League Open Conference debacle with another top podium finish in the PVL Invitationals unfolding this weekend.

Sure, Jaja Santiago’s absence told heavily on their unsuccessful title-retention drive but limping to eighth place in a field of nine certainly didn’t speak well of the caliber of the players, who, under then-head coach Aaron Velez, bucked the odds and defanged the fancied Creamline Cool Smashers in a gripping Open finale in bubble setup in faraway Ilocos Norte last year.

But the Crossovers struggled without the 6-5 middle blocker in the recent Open that saw them grope for form at 1-3 in pool play, lose to the Cool Smashers in the quarterfinals and bow to the cellar-dweller BaliPure Water Defenders in the classification round.

The team management felt it was time to do a crossover, tapping coach Clarence Esteban to whip the team back into fighting form, fulfill the team’s goal to rebound and earn at least another crack at the championship.

That’s despite the pressure and challenge not just from the rest of the six other local squads but also from two top-notch foreign teams spicing up the title chase in the second round of the mid-season offering of the league organized by Sports Vision.

“Our lineup is intact since all players have existing contracts. So our focus is on improving their skills and abilities. We want them to play as a team and we will instill the importance of the role of each individual inside the court,” said Esteban, also the man at the helm of UST boys’ volley squad and current coach of Mapua’s women’s team.

“Expect us to give our very best to rebuild and organize the team for us to achieve our goal,” he added.

Chery Tiggo kept assistant coach Brian Esquivel while Yani Fernandez returns after helping steer Foton to the 2015 Superliga Grand Prix title romp. Joining them are trainer Robertly Boto and strength and conditioning coach Kevin Villegas.

Velez is now the team manager.

Meanwhile, the league will have a press conference with social media platform KUMU today (Wednesday) from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Infinity Ballroom of F1 Hotel Manila in Global City, Taguig.

“We knew what we went through the last conference, so we will work hard and will do it step-by-step to be able to perform well this conference,” said ace Dindin Santiago-Manabat.

The veteran power hitter, however, said Jaja Santiago still won’t be around due to her commitment in Japan but the team remains as talent-laden as ever with Mylene Paat, EJ Laure, Jasmine Nabor and Buding Duremdes raring to showcase their wares and the rest of the Crossovers eager to step up and put Chery Tiggo in the conversation again.

“While the team had a disappointing campaign the last time out, we will not disappoint the team management for the trust it has given us to lead and guide this team,” added Esteban, whose wards will be as much tested as the rest as it kicks off its campaign against Choco Mucho, one of the young but tall and talented squads in the league, on Saturday at the Filoil Flying V Centre.

They clash at 5:30 p.m. after the 2:30 p.m. tussle between Cignal HD and Army Black Mamba.

Petro Gazz and PLDT complete the seven local teams with the top four after the single round elims advancing to the next stage that will feature Japan’s Kobe Shinwa Women’s University and Chinese-Taipei’s Taipei King Whales.

Games will be aired live on One Sports (free to Air Ch 41 and Cignal CH 6) and One Sports+ (Cignal Ch 91 SD, Ch 261 HD) with both channels also available on Cignal’s OTT Platform, Cignal Play, with video on demand also available on the platform.

Matches can also be streamed on social media application KUMU and on the league’s official website pvl.ph.

All the games will be played at the San Juan venue except for the July 23 playdate that will feature Creamline against Choco Mucho, set at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay.

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NBA hosts 1st Iconic Shots Challenge in PH

July 4, 2022 1:41 p.m.

The National Basketball Association (NBA) hosted the first “NBA Iconic Shots Challenge” on Saturday, June 25 and Sunday, June 26 at the Mega Fashion Hall activity center, SM Megamall in Mandaluyong City, Philippines. 

The NBA Iconic Shots Challenge is an immersive basketball experience for fans to attempt select signature shots from the league’s landmark 75th Anniversary Season, which concluded with the Golden State Warriors winning their fourth NBA championship in eight years and seventh championship overall.  

Simulating an authentic NBA arena atmosphere, the challenge took place on a half-court in front of a virtual audience displayed on a curved LED panel. 

Each player had 60 seconds to score from five different spots on the court, ranging from four feet to 24 feet, and complete the shooting challenge in the following order: layup, floater, midrange jump shot and three-pointers from the wing and the top of the arc. 

Each made basket had a corresponding prize from a selection of premium partner items, NBA Store gift vouchers and official NBA merchandise. 

The on-ground activation will also feature a pop-up NBA Store and interactive booths from partners.

Mallgoers played through the NBA Iconic Shots Challenge, which allowed participants to test their shooting skills from five different locations on the court. 

The NBA Iconic Shots Challenge is supported by official partners AXA Philippines, Energen Champion and Gatorade and official media partners Cignal, Globe, Smart, and PLDT.  Official NBA merchandise are available through the NBA Store and NBAStore.com.ph, the official online NBA Store in the Philippines.

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MILO, DepEd celebrate kids’ success thru 1st-ever Palarong Pambahay virtual sports competition

Beloved nutritious beverage brand MILO® Philippines and the Department of Education (DepEd) celebrated the recent success of its inaugural MILO-DepEd Palarong Pambahay.

The joint effort was the first-of-its-kind inter-sport, inter-school virtual competition held on a nationwide scale.

The 2-day live broadcast saw more than 700 participating schools and featured over 2,000 aspiring student athletes who showcased their skills and competed with pride for themselves and their school in front of 1.5 million-plus online viewers.

“It is our great pleasure to partner with MILO® Philippines for the first-ever MILO-DepEd Palarong Pambahay competition.  Even though the pandemic has hindered most of our on-ground activities, our organization, as well as coaches, teachers, and parents, have worked tremendously hard to make this event a reality. This is quite a milestone and integral proof that nothing can stop the Filipino champion spirit and our winning culture of Bayanihan,” said DepEd Undersecretary Tonisito M.C. Umali, Esq.

This groundbreaking online sports event opened doors for young athletes who showed their determination as they trained and competed from their homes, as well as their parent coaches who helped guide them along the way to overcome the many challenges of staying indoors.

“Nakita natin ang pagpupursige ng mga atleta at mga magulang na sumali sa Palarong Pambahay, dahil hindi nila hinayaang maging hadlang ang pandemya,” said Carlo Sampan, MILO® Sports Executive.

MILO-DepEd Palarong Pambahay is just the latest of many creative and innovative programs now available from MILO® Philippines designed to provide kids with an outlet to stay physically active and teach them the important values learned from sports such as discipline, respect, and determination.

“Taekwondo helps me build my self-confidence so that I can attain success through hard-work and determination,” said Justin Apura who hails from the University of San Agustin, Iloilo. Apura won gold in Taekwondo and has been competing in local and international competitions since he was 6 years old.

Jennie Villanueva, whose son Marvi Marcelo competed in Athletics, also shared: “Andun yung pag-strive niya na gawin niya yung best niya sa isang bagay para kahit hindi siya manalo, alam niyang nagawa niya yung best niya.”

Faced with a new reality and challenges, MILO® Philippines and DepEd has proven to parents across the country that there are opportunities to adapt and continue their child’s Champion journey at home.

As schools and sports venues start to open up again, MILO® Philippines is excited to welcome back kids to continue to their Champion journeys in the upcoming MILO® Summer Sports Clinics. For more details on how to join, please visit the official MILO® Philippines website.

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