Daily Drip

This Avatar Builder is Blowing Up on Chinese Social Media Right Now

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If Bitmoji and The Sims had a baby, it’d probably look like Zepeto.

The South Korean avatar builder is currently the #3 social networking app on the iOS App Store and trending on Chinese Twitter-like platform Weibo – and we can see why. Unlike Apple’s Memoji which gives you a series of appearance options to start customizing your cartoon, Zepeto saves you the steps. With the snap of a selfie, the app uses facial recognition technology to automatically render your face into a 3D character, matching your eye color, hairstyle, and face shape.

If you’re unsatisfied with the results, these facial features can be tweaked, along with the avatar’s outfit, make-up, virtual home, and greeting. Users on Chinese social media platforms such as Little Red Book have even begun publishing guides on avatar style and wardrobe options.

The app has exploded in popularity in the past week or so in China, as queries on the country’s leading search engine Baidu demonstrate:

zepeto china

What makes the app especially interesting is that it doubles as a social networking platform. Besides customizing emojis to use in Zepeto’s chatroom, you can also find and connect with other users through the Discover tool or on “Zepeto town street.” By following these users (or exchanging codes with your IRL friends), you can snap pictures with their avatars on Photobooth, undoubtedly the most entertaining feature on the app, choosing from a range of poses and adding a background photo from your camera roll to give it a realistic touch.

New pictures for social media without leaving my bed? Sign me up.

zepeto china

And it seems Chinese netizens and I are on the same wavelength. The Weibo hashtag “Can’t Stop Playing Zepeto” (#玩zepeto停不下来#) reached over 98 million readers earlier this week and the avatars having been popping up all over people’s WeChat Moments friend feeds.

Though some have likened Zepeto to a 3D version of QQ Show, a fashion game that came out more than a decade ago, that hasn’t stopped people from giving it a try. Weibo has been flooded with pictures of users on “dates” with their favorite celebrities, visiting famous monuments, or just hanging with their friends at school:

We expect this to be fully integrated into WeChat any day now….

(Also, if anyone knows the Zepeto code for a Kris Wu avatar, help a girl out by commenting below.)

Julienna Law
    Julienna Law is a senior at the University of Southern California studying East Asian Area Studies and Public Relations. In her free time, she likes dabbling in graphic design, studying Chinese, and listening to the seven loves of her life, K-pop group BTS.