Anime Expo 2011 in Los Angeles is shaping up to be one heck of an event this year, and fans wouldn’t expect less from one of the largest anime conventions in North America. A recent announcement in particular caught my attention, however, if only for the sheer unusualness of it: one of the singers and guests of honor in attendance will be none other than Hatsune Miku.
If you haven’t heard of Japanese singer Hatsune Miku, it’s probably because she’s not real. In fact, there’s nothing human about her at all. Hatsune Miku is, if nothing else, awesomely similar to a holodeck projection: a 3D hologram of an anime girl, who sings and dances on stage before a live audience. Most strikingly of all is that it is not voiced by a woman, but by a computer.
In 2007, YAMAHA corp developed a piece of software called “Vocaloid 2″, which enabled users to insert lyrics into a program, set a melody, and generate their own song — all without having to utter a tune themselves. Hatsune Miku comes as a ready-made vocal within this program, allowing users all over the world to create songs for the voice. To date, the library consists of well over 100,000 unique songs, which have found their way into everything from CDs to DVDs to games.
To help promote the project, SEGA stepped in to give life to the singer, and began to work on a CG model for performances. Now, with the help of 3D holographic projection, Hatsune Miku is given free rein to sing and dance about a stage just like any living, breathing star.
Want to see how it works? Check this out:
The effect is admittedly not perfect. Hatsune Miku’s lip-syncing is slightly off, there’s still a bit of a transparent holographic effect, and one can still tell that there’s something not quite human about the voice — but I’ll be damned if it’s still not impressive.
Hatsune Miku will be performing “39′s Giving Day” in Los Angeles, which is appropriate — it was the first solo performance the hologram gave in Japan last year, and it will now be the first solo concert of its North American debut. Whether you can understand Japanese or not, if you’re going to Anime Expo this is probably one show you’ll want to see.