In order for you to really understand this post, you will have to click on the following link and watch this video of Hatsune Miku. Before you do, she is not real, she is an avatar, but after you watch the video, you will be able to better understand my editorial comments about where we are going as a human race…
Just in case you did not understand what you were looking at, Hatsune is a projected avatar on stage, and those were thousands of real people enjoying her “live” concert, except she is not alive. And by the way, she is coming to the U.S. soon. I hope she learns how to speak English before she gets here, and I suspect she will. There are a lot of things to like about an entertainer that is not human, and Hatsune is certainly not the first time we have seen an avatar be used in a live concert. She is however the first time a completely unique avatar seems to be getting this kind of live event fan base. She has a real band for a back up, and the Internet Herd mostly creates her music in advance. This all bears further examination because it is likely just another step in the integration of humanity with technology.
First, you have to love that fact that Hatsune will never acquire a drug addiction, will never grow older, can change her appearance at will, will never get married and divorced all within a month, and will never pass out on stage. She will never have a wardrobe malfunction – unless planned (like many of them are I suppose.) In other words, we can trust her more than we can a live human. She will deliver a consistently good concert and she will never have to cancel – well, unless the power goes out. She will never get sick, never get tired, and will never be an emotional prima donna. She will always be just the way we want her to be – her creators will make sure of that. I am sure some of you will say that just defeats the purpose of having all the texture that real human would bring. Others of you will say that you would love to be married to her with a list like that!
Hatsune is a carefully crafted avatar in that she is not overly cartoonish looking, nor does she look too real. In Japan, they have tried to make stars of other avatars by either making them look freakishly real, or crazily like anime. In both cases, people did not really come to enjoy or relate to these ends of the spectrum. They do seem to love the way Hatsune splits the difference. This is an interesting point to note – we do not want technology to be too much like us because the intent is to fool us into believing it is human – and we do not want to suspend reality in this way. We also do not like avatars to be overly cartoonish because then we cannot suspend reality far enough to love them.
Now that we are figuring out the perfect model, I am sure we will start to see more examples of holograms that represent archetype performers. It is not really that hard to figure out what men want in a performer, nor what women prefer. We are also experimenting with using holograms to deliver avatars of real people (alive or dead.) It is certainly a lot more expensive to use one of these because the estate must be paid for the rights of this use. For me personally, I would rather not have the world be subjected to my avatar giving speeches after I leave this world. Then again, if they will do a little Photoshop work, lower my voice a little and put me in time period appropriate clothes, my descendants might as well go ahead and reap the rewards.
Why stop with performers though, why not just create avatars for jobs where a real human is not really needed to make decisions. There are going to be more of these as computer decision systems get smarter… So get ready for a future of avatar receptionists, airline counter personnel, taxi drivers, and teachers. Just so we don’t start replacing technology speakers!
Scott@klososky.com / www.fpov.org