It was only a matter of time before someone came up with a way of linking maid cafes and hostess bars with digital idols and adult virtual reality. Behold the VR hostess cafe. Yumenographia is not a physical space, but exists purely in a digital realm: it's waiting for your patronage whenever and wherever you put on a VR headset. It is staffed by hostesses/maids who are, of course, entirely "fake" -- in the sense that they are digital avatars. But, and this is a big "but," the hostesses are real in the sense that they are the avatars of genuine people, rather than characters. At some remote ...

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Virtual dating games and services are very well-established in Japan, and YouTube is the next logical step in this evolution. One of the biggest virtual YouTuber idols at the moment is Shiro-chan, whose videos offer private dining experiences. Now the Japanese virtual YouTuber Note Takehana has upped the stakes with a crowdfunding campaign to remake the titular VTuber with 3D computer graphics. To encourage fans to contribute, "she" is offering supporters a range of merchandise depending on how far their wallets stretch. So what's the top perk? If you fork out ¥1 million ($9,000), you get ...

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Sometimes, things are just too good to be true. Here's a case in point. A Japanese model called imma has attracted a following on Instagram for her amazing looks and style. But imma is not a regular model or idol. She's not even human. Like the schoolgirl Saya, the AKB48 member Aimi Eguchi, and the entirely AI-generated idol supergroup, imma is entirely digital. The CG virtual idol is the creation of ModelingCafe, a company that has produced digitally crafted characters and monsters for a range of media (check out its impressive portfolio). Well, imma (whose name is apparently a pun on ...

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Forget music idols. Young people in Japan all want to be YouTubers these days. In the short space of a few years, the YouTuber has risen to the status of near-god in the media world. As with any celebrity or star, then, many people also want to date YouTubers. But not all YouTubers are real. Shiro is one of the latest virtual YouTubers to attract a following in Japan, the land that previously brought us 2D idols in such games as Love Plus or the digital music idol giant that is Hatsune Miku. Shiro-chan joined YouTube in June 2017, since when the busy lady has released new videos every day ...

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Is this future of idols? People often complain about the manufactured nature of idols, both in terms of the way they look and their music. Well, this development takes things to the next logical yet extreme step. Kyoto-based DataGrid has released a video showing the creation of a fully digital schoolgirl idol. In fact, it's dozens of smiling, innocent-looking schoolgirls -- a fully fledged supergroup of its own, and all generated by computer graphic pixels and artificial intelligence. To be honest, we don't know whether to be amazed or terrified. The realism is certainly amazing ...

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Do you want a cute girlfriend but don't have the looks, social skills, money, time, or language ability to get one? Fear not. As we know, there are lots of virtual dating and 2D character options in Japan, from Lovely x Cation to VR Kanojo and a virtual version of the gravure idol Ai Shinozaki. Recently this has become enhanced thanks to smartphone apps and virtual reality, though we remember sims and dating characters from back in the pre-iPhone days. Here's another possibility: Ai Furuse is a virtual female being developed by the artificial intelligence smartphone app SELF. It now has ...

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Make the first "AI doll" based on gravure idol Ai Shinozaki. First off, there's some serious wordplay going on here: "AI doll" is aidoru (idol), while Shinozaki's name also references "artificial intelligence". In other words, some geeky boffins are planning to create a fully digital version of Shinozaki. Virtual idols already exist aplenty, from Vocaloid music idols to AKB48 temporary digital members and virtual dating game idols. How is this different? Well, they are going to use artificial intelligence based on Ai Shinozaki. The digital creation will speak like ...

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After generating uproar and surprise when they faked a new CGI member for an ice cream commercial, AKB48 have trumped us again by introducing the "real" Aimi Eguchi. In front of 90,000 fans during a major concert, "Eguchi" joined the regular gals on stage for an encore! It later emerged that we had been fooled again by those dastardly ladies! The performer was in fact 15-year-old Yukari Sasaki, who had been the voice behind the Glico Aimi Eguchi commercial, and was wearing special make-up to make her appear like the idol. That's a tough thing to attempt since Aimi is famously formed of ...

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