Honestly, just when you think the Japanese can’t get any stranger, more hopeless, or any more cringe-inducing, they go and surprise you again. It turns out that the latest in a line of “virtual idol” software from Crypton Future Media, Hatsune Miku Virtual Idol, can now be made to inject her voice into any song or melody to sing and dance along to it. The software topped the charts of Amazon Japan’s sales as of September 10th. Apparently, if things continue like this, all retail stocks of the software might be depleted by the time you read this.
For those who don’t know, Hatsune Miku is a virtual… celebrity, if you will, in Japan. She’s proving to be quite talented, you know, for someone who isn’t real. She’s starred in music videos, released chart-registering music CDs, and even had a videogame made of her. The popularity she enjoys and her growing fanbase in Japan and the west is coming disturbingly close to concepts presented in anime like Chobits and Macross Plus, regarding the boundaries between real people and virtual personalities. Although there are no claims as yet as to some kind of software that will make any virtual character “self-aware” or “sentient”, all indications are that, if anyone will try it, you can be sure that the Japanese will probably be the first.