A virtual idol refers to an artificially created virtual being that sings and dances, much like real life idols, but they can inhabit the virtual and/or real world.
There are real people behind the virtual idols who provide their voice, and movements and facial expressions using motion capture technology.” Fan says the key to virtual idols' popularity is their commitment to their fans “who look for someone who genuinely cares about them and is willing to interact with them.”
What is a virtual idol?
A virtual idol refers to an artificially created virtual being that sings and dances, much like real life idols, but they can inhabit the virtual and/or real world. The first notable example of a virtual idol is Hatsune Miku (初音ミク), which began as a personification of a voice synthesis software called Vocaloid. Hatsune Miku has since amassed a massive fanbase, releasing multiple albums and holding hologram concerts around the world. The success of Hatsune Miku has spawned the creation of related virtual idols such as China’s Luo Tianyi (洛天依).
Virtual idols were then enthusiastically adopted by gaming companies. In 2018, Riot Games debuted KD/A, a virtual girl group, to market their video game League of Legends and their in-game products (e.g. character skins). The first leg of the promotion unveiled a live augmented reality performance onstage where KD/A performed with real-life singers. KD/A proved to be a sensation for both gamers and music fans alike. Their first song reached No. 1 on Billboard’s World Digital Song Sales Chart in November 2018 and its music video surpassed 100 million views in one month on YouTube. KD/A’s success has allowed Riot Games to evolve from a traditional gaming company to a next-generation multimedia entity.
The popularity of Hatsune Miku and KD/A has led to the development of a new category of virtual idols – ones that are based on real people. In May 2020, rapper Travis Scott held a virtual concert tour on Fortnite, a video game created by Epic Games. Players were able to gain a unique immersive experience by simultaneously watching his virtual avatar perform and interacting with the concert venue, which consisted of a set of visually stunning game maps. The premiere concert drew a record turnout of 12.3 million attendees, with a total of 27.7 million players participating in the event. In comparison, the attendance of the highest grossing tour of all time, Ed Sheeran’s ÷ Tour, had only 8.8 million attendees. The unexpected success of the concert tour has triggered more developments of virtual idols based on real people.