The Future is Now: Holograms Invade Japan’s Music Industry

One of the big things that has really exploded in Japan this past decade, is a program called Vocaloid.

Originally released in 2004 by Yahama, this musical voice synthesizer enables users to synthesize singing by typing in lyrics and melody.

It didn’t get really popular until 3 years later, when Yahama released Vocaloid 2. With the release of Vocaloid 2, the program was given a makeover with the Character Vocal Series released by Crypton, featuring an anime-style character named Hatsune Miku as the mascot for the software. Many more voices have been released, including a GACKT one.

Wikipedia states that “Nico Nico Douga [which is best described as the Japanese version of YouTube] played a fundamental role in the recognition and popularity of the software. Soon after the release of the software, users of Nico Nico Douga started posting videos with songs created by the software. According to Crypton, a popular video with a comically-altered Miku holding a leek, singing Ievan Polkka, presented multifarious possibilities of applying the software in multimedia content creation. As the recognition and popularity of the software grew, Nico Nico Douga became a place for collaborative content creation. Popular original songs written by a user would generate illustrations, animation in 2D and 3D, and remixes by other users. Other creators would show their unfinished work and ask for ideas.

In 2008, a fan-made program called Miku Miku Dance (seen as “MMD” on YouTube, Nico Nico Douga and other video sites) was released. MMD is a program originally made to animate computer models of Miku (hence the name). However, Vocaloid is such a hit that models of the other characters have been created. Today, the models aren’t limited to Vocaloid characters, and MMD is used to make most fan-made 3D music videos. As of this writing, there are “about 12,200” MMD videos, just on YouTube.

On 2010.03.09, Sega (who developed and published the Hatsune Miku PSP game) held the very first Vocaloid concert at the Tokyo Zepp music hall. (Interestingly, in Japanese, 3 is “san,” and 9 is “kyuu.” “Sankyuu” is Engrish for Thank you. In addition to “san,” 3 can also be “mi,” so 3 9 can be either “Sankyuu” or “Miku.”) Doing the music for the 39’s Giving (Thanks Giving) Concert was a real band named The 39S (The Mikus?)

But what’s so amazing about it?

It’s who sings.

Miku and other Vocaloid characters sing, but this isn’t your Major Magic’s or Chuck E. Cheese’s concert. Ohhh no!

Miku and others were holograms. Yes, that’s right. I said HOLOGRAMS! And they look so real! At first glance, they just look like animatronics, but you can see light shining through the bodies.

Even I had a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that these were holograms @[email protected] Only in Japan can you come across technology this advanced. Jeez…

(I think) You can watch the entire concert, here.

Andrew Monkelban

Andrew Monkelban is an avid gamer and writer, who has been featured in Second Skin, and on Wired's GameLife and The Escapist. He is also really into the Japanese entertainment scene. Even though he has Cerebral Palsy, he does not let it stop him from doing what he loves, although he's always on the look-out for technology that would help him with difficult tasks. He came to PopTen in the Summer of 2009, where he's now able to combine his passions.

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11 Responses

  1. Peter Brauer says:

    Um, haven’t they seen Macros Plus? Don’t they know super intelligent hologram singers go bad. I am a little scared. but Amazed.

  2. Peter Brauer says:

    Um, haven’t they seen Macros Plus? Don’t they know super intelligent hologram singers go bad. I am a little scared. but Amazed.

  3. Funny thing is, I was going to use that Macross Plus singer for the thumbnail, but an animated hologram? Yeah… no. Hard to distinguish a hologram from a ghost, animated.

    Whereas the thumbnail of Princess Leia… Almost everyone knows/recognizes it as a hologram.

  4. Funny thing is, I was going to use that Macross Plus singer for the thumbnail, but an animated hologram? Yeah… no. Hard to distinguish a hologram from a ghost, animated.

    Whereas the thumbnail of Princess Leia… Almost everyone knows/recognizes it as a hologram.

  5. Jamie Antonisse says:

    Wow Andrew, amazing find… this freaked me out! I could not for the life of me figure out how they created these concerts, as I’ve seen the limits of current hologram technology and this just seemed WAY beyond. So I looked it up… apparently this is the Musion Eyeliner, which was used for a Gorillaz concert in 2007. For anyone who wants to see the man behind the curtain, it works via a high-def version of the Pepper’s Ghost illusion that’s been rocked in the Haunted Mansion since the 70’s.

  6. Jamie Antonisse says:

    Wow Andrew, amazing find… this freaked me out! I could not for the life of me figure out how they created these concerts, as I’ve seen the limits of current hologram technology and this just seemed WAY beyond. So I looked it up… apparently this is the Musion Eyeliner, which was used for a Gorillaz concert in 2007. For anyone who wants to see the man behind the curtain, it works via a high-def version of the Pepper’s Ghost illusion that’s been rocked in the Haunted Mansion since the 70’s.

  7. Esthe says:

    Sorry, but these are NOT holograms, this is a projection on semi-transparent mirror.

  8. cablop says:

    Esthe… it doesn’t matter if you use a semitransparent mirror to produce a 3D image in the air, as long as you an see it 3D in the middle of the air, and can see the image from different points of view and see the image accordingly to those points of view… the image is an hologram… well… if you want to say that they’re not the kind of holograms that R2D2 projected… i agree… but they are so so so good quality holograms! good enough!

  9. cablop says:

    well… maybe talking so soon… some other videos show the distortion… but… anyway :P:

  10. Sullivan says:

    cablop: That’s the whole point – you can’t do those things. People sitting at the left side of the stage (their left) will not see more of the figure’s right side and less of the left, people in the balcony will not see the top of the figure’s head, etc. It’s not a hologram, it’s simply a projection of a 2D CGI-rendered movie. Granted the rendering uses standard perspective techniques, shadow-shading, etc., but it’s not 3D (stereoscopic) and it most certainly is not free-viewpoint. Sorry about that. I know that Musion claims “holographic” for their “Eyeliner” tech (which is basically what this is) but they’re using the term… ah… very loosely. The tech simply does not exist to produce full color, full motion, free viewpoint holograms.

    A dead giveaway is in the shots with two figures (e.g. Luka and Miku) where you can see the beams from the projector separating to make the two figures on the screen… exactly as you would see from a movie projector. QED, the image is already formed in the beam when it leaves the projector, and doesn’t depend on your viewpoint. That isn’t how multiple-viewpoint holography works; if it did, it couldn’t be multiple-viewpoint – circle around to the side of the stage and the light from the porjector will still be in two separate beams, so you won’t be seeing one figure hidden by the other.

  11. Aina says:

    Okay. Yes it is a hologram. It is not a futur-y pop up from the ground hologramnbut it’s a hologram none the less. My friends sister went to this concert and she was in te second row or something and she said they were 3D as hell. She said it was like they were real. For god sakes its only 2011 and they have touchable holograms.

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