Enjoy this singer. She is Hatsune Miku, a pop star hit in Japan, and none of her is real.
A year ago we noted: Perfection of human artifice was bound to happen sooner or later. For decades, animators have struggled to overcome The Uncanny Valley effect — the disturbing vibe you get watching animated faces that don’t look quite real. German psychologist Ernst Jentsch coined the term in 1906, as as we’ve written before, most “human” animation attempts such as the Tom Hanks’ characters in 2004’s Polar Express are as eerie as walking through a wax museum at night. The eyes are dead; the faces look ghastly; we don’t believe it is real. But now, fake reality is here.
The video above shows how the evolution of artificial intelligence continues. Hatsune Miku is a projection on a transluscent screen, that looks almost like 3-D, with a voice synthesis engine by Yamaha that takes prerecorded vowel and consonant sounds from an actress and morphs them into any language or song. The illusion is a sentient being. AI, of course, may never happen, but if a machine can emulate humans enough that no one can discern the difference, Miku passes the Turing Test, and the fiction of machine intelligence will become reality.
That day will come, because it already is here. You’re reading this on a computer or tablet or handheld right now, a glowing window that gives you fake views of a world of other people and their ideas that are artificial evolutions of real speech and writing, themselves coded versions of thoughts. You do this for money, itself a system of artificial 1s and 0s that get pushed like invisible blood from the heart of commerce to the cells of your bank computer. The entire universe of communications is a series of codes that layer over each other, like growth of an onion, covering up the seed at the core. As humans learn to enhance their disguises and add additional complexity to the ideas they trade with the world, eventually machines may take those layers and play reality themselves. Who’d have thought they’d also be wearing sexy miniskirts?