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Future of leisure? Avatars might be Ok-pop’s subsequent superstars

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File photograph displaying autographs of recording artists managed by SM Entertainment which adorn a checkout counter on the firm’s SMTown leisure complicated in Seoul, South Korea, on Oct. 2, 2015.

SeongJoon Cho | Bloomberg | Getty Images

One of South Korea’s newest woman bands has set its sights on the “future of entertainment,” launching its first single with each real-life members and their avatars.

æspa includes 4 real-life Korean pop stars – Karina, Winter, Ning Ning, and Giselle – along with their corresponding digital counterparts. They debuted on Nov. 17 with their first observe, “Black Mamba.”

SM Entertainment’s newest pop group is hoping these artificially clever (A.I.) digital idols might change into your subsequent finest good friend. 

At this yr’s World Cultural Industry Forum, SM founder and chairman Lee Soo-man referred to as æspa “the beginning of the future of entertainment,” envisioning a world of real-life idols co-existing with digital avatars who can spend time with followers in ways in which human stars can’t.

The identify æspa refers to “Avatar x Experience” and “aspect,” and followers can anticipate “experiencing a new world via the encounter of the ‘avatar,’ your other self,” the corporate mentioned in a tweet.

“In the world of celebrities, big data-driven robots will play a significant role,” SM’s founder mentioned. “Most importantly, the development of A.I. technology will enable customized avatars to fit into peoples’ lives … Like a living person, like a friend.”

Fans will even get to generate a personalized avatar and work together with one another in a “supermassive virtual world,” he added, after enjoying a teaser suggesting this is able to happen by way of a smartphone software referred to as SYNK.

Endless potentialities

Social boundaries, psychological well being

Are A.I.-driven idols right here to remain?

æspa’s AI-led enterprise is simply one other step in Ok-pop’s evolution, and the coronavirus pandemic has solely accelerated the introduction of digitally mediated initiatives which were within the pipeline for a while, mentioned Williams.

With Covid-19 canceling dwell reveals and conferences with followers, Ok-pop businesses like SM noticed resounding success with livestreaming digital concert events, utilizing holograms and laptop graphics to deliver photos to life for an immersive live performance expertise.

Ok-pop celebrities additionally obtained inventive on social media. From livestreaming cooking reveals to music jamming classes, followers caught at dwelling anyplace on the earth might spend time with their idols and had been delighted to get unprecedented entry to the celebrities’ on a regular basis lives.

In a manner, æspa’s AI-centered idea couldn’t have been timelier.

However, specialists warn that it stays to be seen whether or not their success will likely be dampened when the pandemic eases and dwell occasions return.

“æspa is a test … (SM Entertainment is) going to play around with how much ae-Karina is a proxy for (the real-life) Karina… They will then start to roll out other kinds of avatars that may not even correspond to a real person,” Williams mentioned.

“There is a lot of evidence in gaming and entertainment that people invest significantly in virtual ‘others,'” he added.

However, Lee from USC was a bit of extra skeptical: “Technology is great — it’s great if you can use technology to enhance pleasure, but I feel like SM in a way (has) kind of lost what makes K-pop pleasurable.”

Ok-pop followers love celebrities not simply due to the music or the artistes’ performances, but additionally due to their humanity, relatability and fallibility, the professor mentioned.

“One thing that Covid-19 has taught us is that human beings crave relationships, human contact, and human connection more than ever. And that’s something technology cannot necessarily provide,” she added.