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VTubers, this is how youtubers and virtual streamers are

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Vtuber Kizuna

YouTube and Twitch channels start to have new completely virtual idols using artificial intelligence and automatic digital imaging. They are the new VTubers, as is the case with the protagonist of her own YouTube channel, Kizuna AI, whose name plays with the ambivalence of the Japanese word “ai” (love) and the acronym in English AI (artificial intelligence).

The first examples of virtual idols come from the manga (“Video Girl AI”) and the cyberpunk novel (“Idoru”)

Kizuna shows the typical appearance of the protagonists of the shojo manga (comics starring young girls) with long legs, a short skirt, a band that collects her hair in which there are little rabbit ears, showing a series of characteristic gestures and movements of these characters in anime and video games. Although his voice comes from a real human being his gestures and movements they are generated automatically by artificial intelligence.

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She first appeared in 2016, becoming the first fully digital Vtuber and has participated in multiple events since then. From acting as a model for the Valentino firm to starring in advertising campaigns for SoftBank or the National Tourism Organization of Japan. It has even offered live concerts that could be attended from platforms such as YouTube, TikTok, Bilibili or, through virtual reality with Oculus devices on the Venues platform. Has even offered a live performance on the occasion of his birthday together with a band of human musicians in which the front row seats cost $ 150.

Before the pandemic, the Vtubers’ niche seemed limited solely to the Japanese fanboy and otaku subculture, but for the past year and a half their popularity has been on the rise. Playboard, one of the statistics aggregators on YouTube, indicates that since October 2020 Vtubers have increased the visits they get up to over 1,500 million monthly views.

In part this broad audience comes from what is described in Japanese as moe, a term that refers to the physical attraction for a being that exists beyond reality and that sometimes implies the manifestation of an attraction for the charm of an idealized and immaculate youth. Hence, sometimes that object of desire corresponds to an adolescent or child character, with the tricky implications that this means. The underlying issue can be ignored as they are virtual characters, eternally young, eternally immaculate, which will allow those who interact with them to be relieved of the feeling of guilt.

Completely stripped of those squeamishness, Projekt Melody is a virtual stripper who performs on Chaturbate and Twitch following the instructions of his followers to the letter regarding what to do with his body and with some objects. The objection that could be raised is that her appearance is that of a minor. But of course, it does not really exist, it is not a person but a virtual character, which stretches the ethical question related to the rights that an artificial intelligence could have or a synthetic character.

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They begin to have a vital journey and increasingly common interactions but these virtual idols are not new in the field of fiction.

Originally published in 1989 and created by Masakazu Katsura, «Video Girl AI»Was a manga (later adapted to anime) that narrated how a girl who comes out of the screen of a video helps the protagonist to clarify his feelings towards two of his friends. William Gibson, the father of cyberpunk, published in 1996 the novel “Idoru”, a black genre technothriller set in a dystopian future in which the protagonist must protect a fashionable singer who wishes to marry a idoru (idol, in Japanese) virtual.

Additionally, the popularity of these virtual idols of streaming finds a wide offer thanks to the availability of cheaper technology that makes it possible. Just three years ago, advanced motion capture software was required, available only to large Hollywood animation studios, at a cost of more than 30,000 euros, while today there is software, such as Live2D Cubism, that allows generate convincing Vtubers for less than 100 euros, or like Ugatit, a program that turns the protagonist of any photograph into an anime character.

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