[Journalism Internship] K-pop idols watch out, virtual humans are coming for your jobs

Home > Think English > Journalism Internship

print dictionary print

[Journalism Internship] K-pop idols watch out, virtual humans are coming for your jobs

The line separating reality from the virtual world is blurring, especially in the K-pop industry with technologies advancing to the extent that human-like virtual artists are now collaborating with real artists.  

Through elaborately developed graphics, game engines and artificial intelligence (AI) technology, virtual artists are designed to behave like humans with perfect appearances. They can also communicate with the public, just like real artists.  
Virtual artists refer to virtual beings who do not exist in reality but are created by digital technology.
“Unlike real artists, virtual artists do not age or change over time, cannot do drugs or cause scandals, and [the creators] can control their actions and words,” said professor Kenneth Kim at the Department of Culture Contents of Hanyang University, explaining the reason why more and more entertainment agencies are introducing virtual artists.  
Girl group aespa and their avatars called ae-aespa that exist in a virtual space called FLAT [SM ENTERTAINMENT]

Girl group aespa and their avatars called ae-aespa that exist in a virtual space called FLAT [SM ENTERTAINMENT]

K-pop girl group aespa under SM Entertainment made its debut on November 17, 2020. The label, one of Korea’s biggest, had been planning the group’s debut since 2015. Each of the four members of aespa have a virtual avatar of themselves called æ-aespa that exists in the virtual world, FLAT.
æ-aespa has each member's data projected into FLAT.
“The convergence of the virtual and the real world is advanced enough that the next area to be developed is virtual artists that increase sense of reality,” said Woo Tak, assistant professor at Kyung Hee University’s Department of Digital Art and Design.  
The data for æ-aespa forms a personality and appearance similar to members of aespa which is used for them [the avatars] to think and behave the same as the real human beings.
Boy band Superkind, which debuted in June, became the first K-pop boy band to include a virtual human artist as one of its members. Virtual human Saejin stands shoulder to shoulder with five other human members and gets involved in all events and performances in both the real and the virtual world.  
“With the advancement of 3-D graphics technology and game engines, the technology to create 3-D objects shaped like humans has become very accurate and cost-effective. In the case of virtual artists, there is a low risk of exhaustion or scandals, so from the perspective of entertainment companies, there are many factors to invest in,” said assistant professor Lee Jung-yeop at the Department of Korean Culture and Contents of Soonchunhyang University.
Such virtual human artists are loved by fans as much as real artists.  
The virtual human influencer Han YuA surprised the public with her super-realistic appearance when she debuted in July. She has her own Instagram account and released her profile that includes her date of birth, blood type and even her MBTI type. She signed with YG KPlus in February and debuted as a K-pop singer in May. Her fandom expanded globally and last month, so much so that membrs of her fan club even purchased a billboard advertisement at Lotte Department Store in Jamsil, southern Seoul, to congratulate her on her birthday.  
Prof. Lee from Soonchunhyang University says it’s important for the creators of virtual human artists to include supplement contextual information about what makes them like real human-like, instead of focusing only on the visual or auditory aspects in order to make the virtual beings as attractive as possible.  
Kim from Hanyang University agreed and added, “For virtual human artists to succeed, the public has to enjoy their content and interact with them without difficulty.”  
On Aug. 1, Zae-in, a member of Eternity, which is an 11-member girl group composed only of virtual humans, appeared on a live News broadcast on YTN for an interview. Eternity debuted in March of last year under Pulse9.  
With the deep learning technology that simultaneously synthesizes her face with artificial intelligence (AI) as her face moved, she could smoothly answer the interview questions about herself asked by the reporter for 10 minutes and perform some choreography.
"It is so surprising to see a virtual human appearing on a live show, talking and dancing. It was hard to believe that woman was a virtual human,” said Kim Ha-young, a university student who watched Zae-In's interview.  
In April, Zae-in also appeared in the Korean web drama “Hello Share,” becoming the very first virtual human to have an official role in a drama series.
“I think the efforts to create virtual artists in a virtual space are part of the quest for ‘human beings’ itself,” said Prof. Lee. “All the arts created by mankind, such as paintings, sculptures, plays, dances, movies, and games are mostly about humans and imitate human behavior. In the case of virtual artists, there is a low risk of getting tired or having scandals, so from the perspective of the entertainment company, there are reasonable factors worth investing in their own way.”  

BY CHAEYOON JUNG, SOYEON AHN, MINYOUNG JUNG, SEOHUI LEE [u1325444@umail.utah.edu, u1320605@umail.utah.edu, u1320680@umail.utah.edu, u1250684@umail.utah.edu]
Log in to Twitter or Facebook account to connect
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
help-image Social comment?
lock icon

To write comments, please log in to one of the accounts.

Standards Board Policy (0/250자)