In April, Japanese television risks to know a small revolution. In fact, the television news should be presented by a robot called Erica. This was announced its creator, Hiroshi Ishiguro, a diector of the Intelligent Robotics Laboratory in Osaka, in the columns of Wall Street Journal.
The news should not be amazing in a country where the virtual beings become confused almost about their human counterparts. In a few years, the singer, Hatsune Miku became a star of an intenational famous J-Pop. On the other hand, Midori Sawamura passed a test to present the " cathodic mass ".
But it is especially on Web that these virtual entities exploded as shown by Kizuna AI’sexample. Figures speak about themselves: this "vtubeuse" ("virtual youtuber") aligns more than a million five hundred thousand subscribed on A.I. Channel. The videos have millions of views. If the form is original, the bottom is more conventional. With a halfway between Enjoy Phoenix and Squeezie of flesh and blood, Kitzuna shares her time between “Let’s Play" video games, test of up-to-date devices, and narrative of the agonies of his young adult life … In the most popular video, she is engaged rather ordinarily in a meeting at a gym. Feeling reassured, Tibo InShape also manages to do better, at the moment.
According to the User Local company, specialized in the Web analysis, more than 450 virtual youtubeurs would have been created from the end of 2016 to the beginning of 2018. All the japanophones, are for the most part of the girls even if we also find males and other "species" as animals, robots or even zombies. Most of the time, they address their audiences face camera in virtual environments. But some become emancipated as Ami Yamato. In the vlogs, we can see her walking in the streets of London (where she lives), visit a real museum in Tokyo or even discuss with the youtubeuse Nathalie Tran.
The mystery of the origins
This mixture of virtual and reality questions about the conception of these characters. Moreover, is it really about characters or are they only human beings expressing themselves by the voice of a pixelized avatar? It depends. In this particular case, Ami Yamato is an original work completely designed by hand. But this method remains uncommon in the middle. The majority is the product of the movement capture technique ("motion captures") obtained by a camera and a software like Miku Miku Dance which presents the advantage of being free (the same served for the singer Hatsune Miku). This accessibility allows everyone to build his virtual alter ego on computer today. It is about a good way of vlogger while keeping the anonymity. In this optics, Youtubeur Pixl streams its video games part hidden behind the mask of a panda designed by means of the software Facerig.
Then, it is difficult to know what hides behind these new stars of Web. Natural person? Morality? More than ever appearances are deceptive. This is the way Nora Neko subscribers discovered with surprise during a live broadcast that the very young girl was actually a mature man. The fault in a technical problem has disturbed the motion captures.
In addition to income generated by the monetization of their videos, the virtual youtubeurs can serve from a ambassador to a mark without counting derived products and other goodies exploiting their fame. Companies felt the vein and do not hesitate to use it to promote their marks. A company as Exys has even designed a character, a student Yua Fujisaki, as a full product.
Cultivate the blur
What to overshadow Kylie Jenner, Selena Gomez or even Aryanah Grande. Not being satisfied to produce viral videos, the digital entities are good to make a stand in the small world of influence celebrity. Created in 2016, the account Instagram of the American-Brazilian model Miquela Sousa (more well-known under the name of Lil Miquela) records 622,000 subscribers today. In the paper (or rather in the screen), nothing distinguishes her from her human walk-ons. With the photo showing that she is leaned in a car, in studio or with friends, Lil Sousa cultivates the art of designing marked clothes. Nevertheless, at a closer look, a detail is faulty: the face is not real. Designed by computer, it cuts with the rest of the body which seems to be the real woman. Sometimes, in the bend of a blur or a filter Insta, the difference between the reality and the virtual disappears. After all, is it so important? Is she less real than one celebrity made up excessively and remodelled by the plastic surgery without using digital alterations?
As her Asian vtubers colleagues, the mystery glides around Lil Miquela. Is it the real person? An artistic performance? A hoax? Nobody knows, what does not prevent the fembot (humanoid robot of feminine kind) from taking positions committed to social issues (as the movement Black Lives Matter) while pursuing singer's career.
There is no doubt that this ambiguity seduces at the time of the total transparency and daily assaults of the digital technology against the private life. It is maybe what inspired the Poppy character. As a real star of YouTube accumulating more than 260 million views, Poppy is the fruit of an inverse initiative in that of the gynoïdes colleagues. Here, it is the human which imitates the virtual. Thanks to actress's play, everything in minimalism and a voice halfway between ASMR (for "Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response", expression which dismisses to these videos where people whisper or manipulate softly objects, producing then extremely pleasant sounds and the assistants Siri or Cortana, Moriah Pereira, his real name, scatters the short but enigmatic contents confusion. In one of typical videos of his surrealist style, we can see it in lolita's dress cherishing an old screen by saying: "I love you".
Demonstration by the absurd of the superficiality of the digital fame? The fact remains that it is not incompatible with the fact of kissing completely because among the multiple activities, Poppy is a singer.
As Lil Miquela and Hatsune Miku.
Article written by Thierry Randretsa