Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Virtual Pop idol has become reality! (updated)

Unbelievable. Used for example in William Gibson's excellent Idoru and All Tomorrow's Parties books (some of my favorite books ever), an "idoru" is a software created pop singer. And now it's real, and successful!

"A fictional 16-year old anime character by the name of Hatsune Miku has had chart topping hits and has been featured in online videos receiving millions of views. This has subsequently been followed by live performances in which the character is displayed as a hologram in front of a live band to the throngs of cheering fans. If that wasn’t surprising enough the character’s voice is not even human. It is synthetic and completely produced by a computer."

Some think it's creepy. I dunno, I just think it's cool. And astonishing. (Not even the voice is real... dang.)
It'll be interesting to see what idorus will appear as the tech matures. Of course the main difference between Gibson's idoru character and this real (unreal) one is that so far the real thing does not have artificial intelligence and self-awareness. So far. That's a very tough problem in computing.

Here's a video with more info on her. It's in Japanese, and though it has some instruction on how to get English subtext or audio (there's a Settings selection in the resolution menu for some reason), I didn't get that to work.

Philocalist said:
...much of it is available in HD ... try searching YouTube for 'Meltdown Live in HD (1080p 1920 x 1080)'!
Unfortunately, it gives the game away at this resolution though ... it would appear that it is NOT a hologram, but is actually a back-projected image onto a translucent screen.
The bright pinpoints of light originating behind 'her' from within the band are the projection unit, and around 1.06ish, you can briefly see the glass-like screen stretching across the stage, onto which they are creating the image.



Michael H said...

Reminds me of Macross Plus' idol. That was an anime back in 1996 with its AI Sharon Apple. Part of the conflict was that the company used a real human to power the AI, but then the AI grew self aware and started wreaking havoc, especially when it fell in love with the human who powered her's beau.
The other thing cool in the movie that I haven't yet seen at concerts is the wrist bands they use to measure the audience's emotion levels during the concert.
If you haven't seen it yet Eolake I recommend the series to you. Plenty of pretty girls and cool music.
One of the concert scenes.

Anna said...

The movements are really convincing, she looks like having a real presence. I watch some others form the characters, they are quite different one from the other... really interesting !

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

Some other what? Videos? Characters?

Alex Greene said...

Indeed, Gibson's Rei Toei has a long way to go before she becomes a reality. However, at least they got the hologram tech, and once they combine it with the touchable holograms they've been talking about, who knows what these holograms will be capable of.

The greatest achievement is the virtual vocalisation technology. With no real world actors, not even for voiceovers, the time may well come when movie studios are creating feature length holographic movies where there is not one single human actor credited: just virts.

Ultimately, this could extend to just about any kind of movie industry.

The day that they can come up with a sentient AI moving holo, however, would be as much terrifying as awesome.

Philocalist said...

Had a look at this, plus some of the other video ... much of it is available in HD ... try searching YouTube for 'Meltdown Live in HD (1080p 1920 x 1080)'!
Unfortunately, it gives the game away at this resolution though ... it would appear that it is NOT a hologram, but is actually a back-projected image onto a translucent screen.
The bright pinpoints of light originating behind 'her' from within the band are the projection unit, and around 1.06ish, you can briefly see the glass-like screen stretching across the stage, onto which they are creating the image.
Impressive, all the same, but apparently a much simpler technology than a holograph?
Having said that, maybe 20 years ago I was tasked with photographing a laser-light show at a new nightclub (yep ... get your head around the technicalities of THAT one!) ... the first in the UK outside of London to have a full-colour laser show.
Even back then, the effects were impressive: a tunnel apparently running across the dancefloor, suspended maybe 4 feet above it.
From outside, the tunnel was opaque: walk towards it from the side, straight through the side 'wall', and you body would vanish, leaving your legs outside the tunnel ... and from inside the tunnel you could not see your own legs!
Cool, but quite mind-bending too :-)
I'm saying about 20 years back ... Jason Donovan was topping the charts with a young Kylie:-) ... but it makes you wonder where the technology might have been advanced to since, no?

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

Damn, I didn't know they could do that, much less twenty years ago.
One would think that at least a mass of bodies would get in the way of the projectors.

AG, I think making a realistic talking voice is much more of a challenge than a singing one which is accompanied with instruments.
It'll be interesting to see exactly when the first real CGI actors are used successfully in a film. (For acting, not stunt work.) There's a trillion details which have to be right.

Pascal [P-04referent] said...

Hardly any more fake than most pop idols today, don't you think?
And with the welcome bonus honesty of being completely straightforward about it.
"Miku, will you marry me?"

Pascal [P-04referent] said...

"Ultimately, this could extend to just about any kind of movie industry."

You KNOW this is the end of the entire tabloid industry you're talking about here, don't you? }:-)

"It'll be interesting to see exactly when the first real CGI actors are used successfully in a film."

When it happens, remember the brave pioneeers: Squaresoft poured a fortune in making the commercial failure Final Fantasy: the Spirits Within. Which, IMO, was rather proper and quite poetic, albeit a little "stiff" as far as the "human" characters were concerned.

BTW, recently purchased a Tron action figure (from the new movie). They've got electronics that sync their spoken voice with an animated projection of the actor's face on the curved inside of the semi-transparent "smoked glass" helmet. It's actually just three alternating versions of the face (or three lighting angles on one single image, according to my brother), but it gives the nicely done effect of moving lips and changing expressions.
Virtual "alive" faces on action figures... how fitting that it should begin with the characters from Tron!
Even the original movie was kewl. And, I think it was the very first in history to include genuine CGI footage, with that classic Recognizer flying two-legged blocky thingie.

Reminiscent of Spirits Within, the original Tron had artificial coloring which, back then, was done by hand, image after image. They first shot in B&W, then used black paper cut-out caches to photograph each image several times, superimposing the corresponding bits each in turn receiving lighting of the right color.
You can IMAGINE(!) the amount of work.

I wonder why they don't yet make "virtual" movies using the live CGI capabilities of today's videogaming consoles. Surely it's no more complicated than using the graphic engine of a game for the cutscenes. (As first seen, if memory serves, in the first Tomb Raider on the first PlayStation.) Nowadays, any game can have film-like finesse of detail.
And such movies would take up a lot less memory than recording the pixels of pre-rendered images, therefore a lot more footage would fit on a single disk... and multiple camera angles would become something automatically available!
Some videogames today have more than 2 hours of cutscenes, PLUS the game itself.

We'll get there, eventually. I recently found three "Interactive Storybook" games on the Nintendo DS, basically simple multimedia adaptations of read-along kid stories. It would be laughably easy to do better.

Such potential...

The very INSTANT 3-D screen goggles become interesting in price, virtual reality games (and possibly movies) will swarm the market.
The "Nintendo 3DS" handheld console is scheduled to come out early next year. Basically, it's like the current DSi, except both screens -already with 3D graphics capability- will be in REAL 3D, and without the need for special glasses. Genuine stereoscopic vision volume graphics for all... I've been waiting 10 years for this.
The PS2 cous already process twice the amount of images and display them as colored anaglyphs, but... no-one effing bothered.
Morons. Anaglyph tech is ridiculously cheap.

Maybe, soon, they'll make a contact lenses version of VR goggles. Then we can live alongside "solid hologram" characters which only the ones with clearance can see.
"Jarvis, replicate me a coffee please.
- Right away, Mr Stark."

It's not just about music concerts, as you can... see(!).

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

But they do:

Pascal [P-04referent] said...

Machinima, sure. I knew about it. But why, oh, WHY does it have to remain the near-exclusive creation of passionate amateur fans hacking their games on PC? (Usually to play World of Warcraft with a nekkid character, even though the complete absence of armor is equivalent to prompt suicide? ;-)

There's an immense and still untapped potential there. Something inaugurated with the first interactive movie/game, Dragon's Lair.
BTW, I happen to own the game. To be precise, an identical version adapted on DVD, which came with a videogaming magazine.

I love the Nintendo DS because it pushes the interactivity almost as far as you coud expect from a tiny machine. Now, all it still lacks is a position/tilt sensor... and the games to make full use of its potential!
The games... always the core of the problem. Commercial logic mercilessly stomps on any creativity.
But I don't have time for a new rant right now. You guys are big boys, fill in the blanks by yourselves. ;-)

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

I imagine sooner or later somebody will recognize the economic potential in making a "game world" which is made for making films.
The difficulty is that the films will be compared to Pixar's and they use 4 years and hundreds of men and computers to make one.

Pascal [P-04referent] said...

Yeah, sure, and I'd bet you already know about Rapunzel and the animation of her magical, 60-foot golden hair. (Though I bet it'll be a breeze to make the TOYS, just modify a Barbie and sell her barefoot!) :-p

But even Pixar started small, with ambitions and imagination way beyond their hardware. What about many very fine successes that started with quite modest technical means... and sometimes stuck to it? Okay, let's not mention South Park! But I'm thinking of Pucca - Funny Love, which began as Flash animations. And no voices. [I warmly recommend that cutesy "Korean Anime" series.]

Several hit series out there use 3D which is way BELOW a current PS3 game. Or even some gorgeous PS2 games, such as Ratchet & Clank, Jak & Daxter or Scaler. You don't need the biggest guns/car/computers to make commercial successes praised by the public. (Does the bomb Beowulf ring a bell? Don't bother, I'll answer the door. ;-)

Many amateurs would just love the chance to let their imagination loose with a ready-made Create-A-Cartoon (or film) on their consoles. I myself have the closest equivalents: RPG Maker and Fighter Maker, both on PS1 and on PS2, both fully customisable games. (Too bad Fighter Maker is only about the moves, its costumes are hopelessly untinkerable.) I've also got Drawn To Life on the NDS, where you start by drawing the (animated) protagonist of that platformer game to the pixel, and proceed samely with the friends that replace defeated enemies, the panel celebrating your victory pose at level completion, etc.
I also found a couple of Create-a-comic CDs on PC, namely Popeye and the Smurfs. Simple stuff, but huge potential.

In its day, there was a special edition black PlayStation1 named the Net Yaroze. It could play games from all world zones, and, more importantly, allowed one with decent C++ programming skills to design their own PlayStation games! A few of which were later bought by big editors to polish and market.
I've got a whole collection of such games, some surprisingly creative, courtesy of the demo CDs of the official PS Magazine of the day.
You heard of Nintendogs? Well, some dedicated amateurs are currently working on a "Nudetenbabes" ecchi game. There are ways to run a homebrew NDS game. :-)

The PS1 already had very honorable cell-shading 3-D capabilities, as illustrated in the Fear Effect series or The Simpsons Wrestling. What a sad, sad lack of COMMERCIAL VISION, to leave such a potential untapped.

Pascal [P-04referent] said...

It's all there for people, especially enthusiastic young fans with better ways to use their gifted talents than online hacking, to finally make full use of some of the kewlest toys ever invented: those that can LITERALLY make any game.
And, possibly in a rather near future, even make these games "real" with proper VR technology or solid holograms.
We don't all have to learn how to program a PC: there are ready-made friggin' development kits sent by console makers to game editors, D'UH!

I mean, come on, people, don't you want to discover game programmer talents FOR FREE, and even make some bucks selling the "sandbox kits"? Hel-looooo?

If I had the time, I would learn the programming explained in the demo DVD of my first PS2 and make stuff with it. Basically, you can turn your PS2 into a programmable computer, all you need is a USB keyboard ("check!").

Back in the day, I learned BASIC programming from my ZX Spectrum's manual and started making games on it. Don't pop my virtual dreams bubble. ;-)

How about it, Captain EO? Shall we launch a public petition with your well-known blog? (Not the largest public of them all, but valuable quality people among them more than make up for it!)