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Aug 21

An anonymous Slashdot reader shares a report about Japan’s virtual YouTubers or VTubers that act as live performers, corporate PR officials and even surrogate children. From The Wall Street Journal: Ryosei Takehisa, 24 years old, doesn’t have any children — unless you count an animated character with elfin ears called Mikuriya Kuon. In live appearances on YouTube, the kimono-clad Kuon character, voiced by an actor hired by Mr. Takehisa, dispenses advice about the latest video games and plays rock-paper-scissors with her fans. The creator says he considers Kuon his “real daughter” even though she “resides within pixels.” While others may compete for fame or page views, “for me, I’m totally satisfied just with the fact that she was born and is continuing to live life in good health,” says Mr. Takehisa. Digital avatars with human traits have long carved out a role on social media, on Instagram in particular. Japan, as it often does, has taken the idea and run with it, with its virtual characters now estimated to number more than 3,000.

Technology allows Kuon and her peers to have more direct engagement with fans — and sometimes a family-like relationship with their own creators. The characters, known as virtual YouTubers or VTubers because many are active on YouTube, sing and dance at live performances and answer questions on webcasts. VTubers are so embedded in Japanese culture that one of them serves as a face of the Japanese government’s tourism campaign. Another presented earnings results for game-site operator Gree Inc. in August last year, informing investors that “we will aggressively invest in strengthening our three earnings pillars.” “VTubers are an evolution in Japan’s long tradition of manga and anime, giving real-time interactivity to the sort of characters earlier depicted in comic books and on television screens,” the report says. “The next step could be artificial intelligence to allow the VTubers to sing, dance and be mischievous without any backstage human help.”

Sony is trying to further extend one of their latest pop sensations, a VTuber called Kaguya Luna, by building on its virtual-reality technology. “It has already staged concerts by Luna that fans view through a VR headset,” reports The WSJ. “Next the company is looking into haptic technology — which can convey vibrations and force — to allow fans to get up close and personal with Luna.”

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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