Artificial Creativity? – Hatsune Miku & Lil Miquela

Whether artificial intelligence can be creative is really only a philosophical question now. Algorithms have long been able to technically reproduce what was once considered genius. Hatsune Miku and Lil Miquela may not be AIs as they are influencers, but that doesn’t make them human.  They are computer-generated avatars with more than 5 million followers between them and may mark the marketing of the near future. Artificial creativity is taking on astonishingly real technical contours as a result of these developments.

Artificial Creativity? – Hatsune Miku & Lil Miquela

For a long time, creativity was regarded as the human characteristic or ability that could not be transferred into the logic of zeros and ones and, accordingly, could not be taken over by machines. Today we know better. In the case of numbers and logic, it is still relatively easy for us humans to entrust them to machines. With creativity it is different. It touches the area of identification as a sentient being and thus provides much more material for dystopian forebodings.

At the same time, the examples of artificial intelligences that produce art, music or design are increasing. The results are so good that they do not seem to differ from those of humans. For example, old stonemasons’ marks become digital art, Taylor Swift’s discography becomes – well – a Taylor Swift song, and photos become works of art, always in the desired historical style. Currently, these are still more technical experiments carried out by startups, tech companies or universities. However, their success is so great that AI artworks have already been auctioned off, which raises very tricky copyright issues.

Real-technical contours of artificial creativity

But what may seem astonishing on the one hand is actually – well – logical. After all, all known examples of machine creativity were performed by algorithms that were previously fed with enormous amounts of data on human creative work. In a sense, the AIs recognize a pattern in the data, depending on the task at hand, from which new content can be generated again and again that resembles the old content, but does not resemble it. Whether this is already creativity or still technical reproduction, or whether both phenomena actually follow the same pattern, is more a question for cultural studies.

But what does this mean for the creative industry? The fact that an AI sells NFT art on the Internet and legitimizes itself as the creator still seems to take some time to develop. But the idea is slowly taking on real-technical contours. The gap between human and machine creativity seems to be getting smaller. Hologram superstar Hatsune Miku and the successful digital model provide a first taste of how artificial creativity could be marketed.

Hatsune Miku

Hatsune Miku is not a human being, but the manga character of the Japanese start-up company Crypton Future Media INC. However, that does not stop her from thrilling an audience of millions worldwide and performing as a hologram in sold-out concert halls. Behind the manga figure is not (yet) an artificial intelligence, but the software synthesizer Vocaloid from the company Yamaha, with which synthetic vocals can be generated. Hatsune Miku is a software that runs on the Vocaloid. With this software, users can write songs and have them sung by Hatsune Miku. The community has now produced over 100,000 songs and videos, a selection of which will be played at the public concerts. In 2021, however, these will probably only take place in the stream.

Hatsune Miku is therefore a cyber star that is being constructed and brought to life by a globally active creative community. In 2012, Crypton Future Media INC. decided to adapt the “Creative Commons License CC BY-NC” to Hatsune Miku’s original illustrations to support and promote open creative activities around the world. Media platforms have been created for Hatsune Miku’s fans to collaborate and share.

The better Alexa?

A Hatsune Miku figure for the home has also been on the market since last year. The figure works with a fixed voice recognition software that reacts to individual keywords. A matching video sequence is played for each word. Inside the figure is a short-range projector that projects an image to the front. In addition to voice recognition, Hatsune Miku can also control household functions, such as operating lights and locking the lock. You can’t have a real conversation with the manga, yet one Japanese man has already married this character and is in a relationship with her.

The Japanese company has made it its goal to have Hatsune Miku fed with as much data as Alexa. Together with the NTT Research Institute and the company Dwango, the inventors are trying to optimize and train the artificial intelligence of the manga character. With the help of an online analog game played by fans and the manga character, 20,000 lines of conversation could be stored on the server, which the character can later access. Hatsune Miku will soon also be seen as a virtual influencer on Instagram.



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Ein Beitrag geteilt von Miquela (@lilmiquela)

Hatsune Miku is not the first non-human influencer on Instagram. Miquela Sousa, aka Lil Miquela, has been an influencer on Instagram since 2016 and now has over 3 million followers. Like Hatsune Miku, Miquela is just an avatar and not an AI. In this case, it’s the company Brud that controls Miquela’s activities, so this is very human marketing and not (yet) algorithms.

Miquela does everything her human influencer colleagues do. She poses in sponsored clothes, tests sponsored products and posts selfies with her partner Nick aka “Angel Boi”. The fact that none of this is real in the conventional sense, but made up, doesn’t bother her followers; perhaps because the line between real and staged has long been blurred in social media anyway.

Half Brazilian Pixels

The success speaks for itself. Miquela works for Calvin Klein, Prada and Supreme; she also promoted a smartphone from Samsung and the streaming service Spotify. She succeeds because of her activity in social media, which makes her appear genuine and authentic, which in turn shows that these concepts work somewhat differently on the web than in the analog world.

At the beginning, there was a lot of discussion about whether Miquela was a real person or just a remote-controlled avatar. Because since all images on social media are edited anyway, at first glance it wasn’t even noticeable that the pixels of the 19-year-old half-Brazilian were never anything other than pixels. The matter only became official when another non-human influencer leaked and published Miquela’s true origins. A brilliant marketing coup!

Since Miquela is a musician, there is of course music by her, produced by Brud CEO Trevor McFedries aka Young Skeeter. Who is behind the voice and whether this is also software like Hatsune Miku is unclear.

The future of Artificial intelligence?

Artificial intelligence is making tremendous progress and showing us that it can also produce creative content, if only it is given the right amount of data and sophisticated algorithms. Hatsune Miku and Miquela are not AIs. But they provide the technical and social framework in which the AIs of the future could operate. Because what the Hatsune Miku community or the company behind Miquela still do today could theoretically soon be delegated to algorithms that already know better what everyone likes.

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