The average person may be unaware of what a virtual pop star is, but the name Hatsune Miku might ring a bell. Yes, that Hatsune Miku. The turquoise-hued, pigtailed 16-year-old virtual humanoid that sometimes performs “live” as a hologram. Akin to how the late Tupac surprised Coachella goers many, many years ago. Or how the very-much-alive rapper Chief Keef followed suit by appearing as a hologram before his event got shut down by police (because, as Keef would say, that’s some shit they don’t like). Miku’s different than Tupac and Keef though—she’s not alive (nor was alive previously) at any capacity. She’s a fictional humanization of Crypton Future Media’s synthesizer application. A virtual entity to the fullest degree. And now, virtual idols are taking the next step. Beyond enthusiastic concert holograms and AR-ridden in-game photobooths—to VR.
The upcoming Hop Step Sing!, a joint venture between Polygon Pictures and manga publishing powerhouse Kodansha, is the first VR-focused idol project of its kind. Hop Step Sing! will produce wholly original music (from the same publisher as the popular Love Live! School Idol Project series), coupled with 360-degree music videos for sole existence within the virtual realm. Hop Step Sing! are singlehandedly the very first VR pop idol group.
Hop Step Sing! are singlehandedly the very first VR pop idol group
Miku wasn’t the first virtual idol to grace the grander net world (that title belongs to 1997’s Kyoko Date), nor will she be the last. Virtual and animated idols have grown massively in popularity in the past few years. This is most likely due to the ever-growing popularity of cross-media idol endeavors, like The Idolm@ster and Love Live! School Idol Project, and their internationally rampant fanbases. The only difference between the lovable animated gals of Idolm@ster and Love Live!, and Miku, is that the aforementioned series have actual voice actresses backing their animated personas, not merely Vocaloid-esque software. In the upcoming Hop Step Sing!, the same case exists. The cast features voice actresses Maria Sashide, Mariko Toribe, and Natsumi Hioka to bring the virtual idols to life.
The first song for Hop Step Sing!, “Kiseki-teki Shining! (Miracle-like Shining!),” will release on VR-embodied smartphone apps later this Summer. In the future, Kodansha hopes to release official apps for all other major VR platforms, specifically for the Gear VR, Oculus Rift, and HTC Vive. There’s currently no word on what interactivity Hop Step Sing!’s alleged apps will have (outside of hosting music videos). Yet in this brief video from Animate News (owned by the popular anime-merchandise chain Animate), it appears that there may be some crowd wotagei (glowstick cheering) dancing lessons.
Hop Step Sing! may be the first VR-only focused idol endeavor, but it’s not the only VR idol project on its way. Recently announced by Bandai Namco, the PlayStation VR will have a familiar group of ladies joining the anticipated headset upon launch. With The Idolm@ster: Cinderella Girls Viewing Revolution, players will be able to step into the shoes of a 346 Productions fan, and witness nine popular idols from the series perform on the same stage as their first “live” concert. It’s yet another wotagei simulator—as has been hinted for Hop Step Sing!’s apps—and gives viewers the ability to personally see an otherwise impossible concert.