Hatsune Miku, Kizuna AI and the Rise of the Virtual Superstar

Back in 2004 the Yamaha Corporation released their music creation software to the public as Vocaloid, a PC programme that allowed users to put together music samples, create songs and have “virtual idol” singers (known as Vocaloids) perform them. The programme became a big hit with anime fans across the internet and with the release of Vocaloid 2, Crypton Future Media created a true star.

Hatsune Miku is one of the most recognisable Japanese animated characters across the world, inspiring a whole range of figurines, merchandise and even the video game Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA. Not only is she a popular character within the Vocaloid programme but she even performs sold-out arena shows across the world as part of Miku Expo, a hologram show where fans come from all over to see her dance on stage and sing some of the most well known songs made with the software.

She’s a 2D anime girl who became a recogniseable popstar, and she’s not the only virtual superstar either. Enter Kizuna AI, the virtual YouTuber who is currently taking the otaku world by storm. With 1.8 Million subscribers on her channel and over 400,000 Twitter followers she’s the perfect modern social media celebrity.

Made as a collaborative project between Project AI, Morikura Ken, Tomitake and Tda in 2016, Kizuna is just like many other personalities on the video sharing platform (except she’s animated with Miku Miku Dance and motion-capture technology.) She makes Let’s Play videos, Vlogs and sometimes she even collaborates with non-AI YouTubers. While she’s still a relatively new face in the online world, figurines of Kizuna are in the works and she has her own show on Japanese television.

As we’ve seen before with Miku, a digital created character can become a world-wide pop culture phenomenon. With the increasing popularity of YouTube and social-media celebrities it could be possible that Kizuna AI will become just as big of a superstar too. As the technology improves we might even see more virtual icons in the future, there are a lot of possibilities.