VTubers are making millions on YouTube and Twitch


It was the world’s largest gathering of internet celebrities. As I waited to meet Twitch streamer Code Miko in a hotel lobby at VidCon, I spotted an Instagram-famous husky, a fan favorite contestant from Netflix’s “The Circle,” and a controversial beauty blogger.

But when a fashionable Korean American woman approached me, I realized I was half expecting to see a 3D, hyperrealistic animation in front of me, rather than a real human. Maybe it was the near-hallucinatory exhaustion from day three of a massive online video convention, but unlike so many of the social media stars in the echoing hotel entrance hall, VTubers like Code Miko are sometimes unrecognizable in person. A movement originating in Japan, “VTuber” means “virtual YouTuber,” but the culture is also prevalent on other streaming sites like Twitch, where Code Miko has almost a million followers. To build their virtual personas, streamers use motion-capture (or even just AR face-tracking) technology to embody a virtual avatar and weave a backstory and mythos around the character.

“I thought it would be really fun to be another character,” the streamer told TechCrunch. “I just felt like I had this vision. I wanted to take control of a virtual character and have the audience be able to interact with her live on stream. I’m a big fan of ‘Ready Player One,’ so when I felt like I could make a tiny percent of it, I was really excited.” The Code Miko character, for instance, is an NPC (non-playable character) who dreams of starring in a major video game, but she’s too glitchy, so she’s resorted to streaming instead. Fans call the actual human behind the avatar “the Technician,” but her first name is Yuna. Since Yuna was a VR animator before she was laid off in the pandemic and created Code Miko — which is now her full-time job — her avatar is far more realistic than most VTubers. Also, most VTubers would never dare meet a journalist in person, let alone show their face on stream. But Yuna sometimes shows her face to offer viewers a behind-the-scenes peek at her mocap technology.

VTuber avatars usually resemble anime characters, since the genre first emerged in Japan. Fans disagree about who the first VTuber was — some say that the culture was sparked by Hatsune Miku, the avatar of a Vocaloid music production software who has opened for Lady Gaga, appeared on David Letterman, and performs live for stadium-sized audiences. Others credit Kizuna AI, a project of Japanese tech company Activ8, who started her channel in 2016 and coined the term “VTuber.” Kizuna AI’s popularity birthed a new generation of online stars in Japan. Unlike Japanese idol culture, which holds its real-world celebrities to impossibly high standards, VTubers are more free to be themselves, even though they’re performing as a virtual character.

Source: This news is published by techcrunch



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