Marrying your idol? I’m pretty sure some of you out there have dreamt of such a thing. Marrying your favorite virtual character? I don’t know about you, but my fantasies haven’t gone that far. Yet, there are people who actually want to make such a fantasy become a reality.
Kondo Akihito, the man in the video, decided to get married to the virtual idol Hatsune Miku. Of course, it would have been problematic if it was a virtual representation of a real idol instead, but because Hatsune Miku is a virtual idol and has several ‘shapes’, it could be considered acceptable. Like Kondo says, he is in love with the whole concept of Hatsune Miku, but he got married to the one living in his household.
But what is that thing that he refers to as the Hatsune Miku living in his house?
That tiny hologram is called Gatebox and enables you to live together with a holographic anime character called Azuma Hikari, or the Hatsune Miku version.
Watch this video by VICE to get a more general idea of the story behind Gatebox and this holographic ‘wife’:
As you might have noticed, the robot is perhaps less promising than the promotional video makes it seem. She talks back by recognising your voice and using a limited set of expressions to reply, similarly to Siri and other intelligent assistants. As impressive the promotional video may make it seem, it seems it is still lacking in order to replace a real life companion.
In the next video, Japanese YouTuber Hajime-shacho unboxes the Gatebox and tries to communicate with it (skip to 3:50 if you don’t want to see his funny introduction of the product):
Although there were some minor miscommunications, which only added to the humor, it seems like the YouTuber was able to communicate surprisingly well with the hologram. Actually, I am becoming more and more concerned with the comment the translator made at the end of the video: “reason for Japan’s aging population :D” (sidenote: Hajime-shasho does not say this).
I must say that it looks very cool, and it might be handy to have a virtual assistant like Hikari. But really using it as a replacement of a physical partner seems quite unhealthy to me. Not just for the person, but also for society.
When it comes to finding love, there seems to be a problem in Japan. The VICE video I showed above (and some other video’s on YouTube related to the same topic) make it seem as if the otaku-culture is the cause of this problem. To me, it seems more like a “chicken or the egg” kind of problem. Did people start to have trouble finding love and turned to fictional characters like in anime, manga, games and Vocaloid, or did their love for fictional characters make it harder to find love among “3D-people”?
Even though I do think these kind of developments are very intersting, and I am sure they can also be used in a very special way as introduced at the end of the VICE video, but I do not think it is the right solution to the problem of loneliness among younger Japanese adults. In my opinion, it would help a lot more to examine the problem more closely and try to find a solution right there at the beginning of the problem, rather than reinforcing it by filling up the empty gap.