Metaverse’s POLARizing New Virtual Talent
Reuters recently wrote about Polar, Metaverse’s digital pop star with 1.6 million followers on TikTok and a YouTube channel with more that 500,000 subscribers. She is a virtual singer who hopes to one day perform as a Hologram in front of a live audience, just like ABBA does today.
On the surface, there’s nothing wrong with a smaller news story on newfangled tech. But to those in the know, the article read as oblivious at best and a corporate puff piece at worst.
The technology is by no means new. Virtual YouTubers, or VTubers, were prominently featured at both Anime Expo 2022 and Crunchy Roll Expo. Ironmouse was literally the biggest female streamer on Twitch in the first half of 2022.
It’s somewhat odd that an article about virtual entertainers fails to mention one of the biggest trends sweeping Youtube and Twitch since the pandemic. VTuber news channel FalseEyeD aptly noted that it is a famous virtual talent, but no one’s ever heard of them within the virtual talent circles.
Some have also called into question whether Polar’s popularity was artificially inflated because the numbers did not quite add up.
Not a VTuber!
A write-up by the Inquirer, quoting the original Reuters piece, actually attempts to break down that Polar is not a VTuber, but a virtual influencer. The difference is apparently that VTubers focus on live content, while virtual influencers “limit their content to social media posts and other recorded media.” Phrased like that, VTubers sound to be the superior form of culture.
Even so, Polar is inspired by ABBA’s hologram concerts and wants to do something similar. The Reuters piece makes it sound like a virtual talent has never done that. However, Japanese virtual idol Hatsune Miku performed her first ‘live’ on a projection screen during Animelo Summer Live at the Saitama Super Arena on August 22, 2009. She’s not even human, but a voice synthesizer program that allows anyone to employ her vocals. This was not a unique experience to Japan as Miku performed a sold-out show in London in 2019.
Another example of a hugely successful group of Virtual performers are, of course, K/DA, the kpop band from the popular game League of Legends. The band, voiced by actual singers, has also appeared via augmented reality at 2018 LoL World Championship.
It’s strange that an article about this new Metaverse-born signer didn’t mention the already existing virtual signers who are certified gold in America, or VTubers, who are apparently a whole different category.
In fact, another source of criticism for Polar was that she looks generic, her most stand out feature being that mask that covers her mouth. It is most likely just a way to have a cheap 3D model, where you don’t have to animate the mouth, a life-hack many indie VTubers do.
Akali from K/DA wears a mask and Miku has green hair. One could easily make the case that Polar is just copying the existing popular virtual singers (that Reuters conveniently never heard of).
World-Famous in New Zealand
During my research, I discovered Polar is big on TikTok and did not just crawl out of the ether, having existed since 2021. She is not an independent success story like Ironmouse on Twitch though, as the singer was created by the Youtube algorithm alchemists from TheSoul Publishing. This is a case of her being the ‘first Metaverse virtual singer’, rather than the ‘first virtual singer.’ Corporate cross-pollination at work.
To sum things up, Metaverse is pretending to be innovative when they are repackaging the ideas that have existed for decades, and are doing it at a lower quality. Polar is a virtual singer created by one of the biggest global media publishers for one of the biggest social media platforms. A reputable media outlet presents this as a bold step forth, while also avoiding to mention anything else in the same field or similar. This is akin to saying that there’s this new up-and-coming genre of music called kpop that will maybe catch on.