Where does the real world end and the digital world begin? The divide seems to be shrinking. Consider the following video:
Hatsune Miku is a totally synthetic pop star in Japan. Her appearance is obviously fake, but it’s interesting to note that the sounds she makes are all generated grammatically then tuned for pitch. Using simple lighting tricks, it appears as those this computer-generated personality exists in the real world. When someone becomes a ‘fan’ of a virtual character, are they a fan of the multitude of people necessary to create this personality, or are they a fan of the digital Hatsune herself?
At Coachella Music Festival this year, this process was improved upon again. Tupac is dead recording artist whose label has been releasing his tracks long after his death. He was once again brought to life using this same technique, but with actual video footage and his real voice instead of a synthetically generated character. I won’t link to the video here because of the explicit nature of his lyrics, but you can find it on YouTube. It’s almost disturbingly realistic.
In these two examples, the mixed reality experience can only be viewed from afar and at certain angles. But it seems like only a matter of time until these holograms can move among us. I don’t think that we will be mistaking them for people any time soon, but it does beg the question: how do we decide what is “real?” Can digital artifacts have fans? Is Tupac really dead?