Could Vocaloid virtual singers steal the spotlight from pop stars?
Most of the today’s popular music artists use technology to add effects or adjust their singing in order to make it more interesting to new generations of listeners. A program called Vocaloid can synthesize singing of male or female voices which have been used for choruses and it has been around since 2004. One of the voices named Miku Hatsune is created by Crypton Future Media, and it is a virtual singing avatar that can be programmed to sing any song you create.
And here comes the twist – Hatsune and her virtual colleagues have performed on sold-out concerts on limited tours in Japan. By combining 3D modeling with clear projection screen and 2 projectors behind it, Crypton Future Media software and live performance of musicians which accompany the virtual singer, they managed to create an illusion that virtual characters are performing on stage.
The technology for Crypton’s Hatsune Miku program comes from Yamaha’s Vocaloid software which provides the means to create a realistic synthesized singing voice. The software allows users to compose music and connect it to vocals note by note. As in humans, different characters have different voice colors and vocal range in which their voice gives a more natural performance.
Aside Miku, who was modeled after a 16 year old girl, other performers on the concert were Len and Rin Kagamine, who represent a 14 year old boy and a girl, and bilingual (English and Japanese) Luka Megurine, who represents a 20 year old woman with a more adult singing voice and figure. Yamaha doesn’t directly market the software itself, instead relying on licensed developers like Crypton (in Japan) and Zero-G (in the UK) to sell various products based on the technology.
You can share the songs you create via sites like Piapro (site available in Japanese language). Writing music for virtual avatars has become so popular that Crypton has established a music label, KarenT, and you can see many of the associated music videos for these songs on KarenT YouTube channel.
Although the projection (which was referred as a ‘hologram’ by some) isn’t that impressive and it is a bit pixelated when it is watched from a closer range, there is no doubt that more impressive visual shows could be arranged with the advancement of technology. Even the vocal programs are becoming more advanced with larger banks of sounds that offer more natural performance, including better pronunciation and even breathing.