Less than two months ago, the debut music video by the South Korean girl group MAVE: went viral, amassing almost 20 million views on YouTube and paving the way for a possible worldwide breakthrough.
MAVE appears to be any other idolized K-pop band at first glance, except that it only exists virtually. Their music, dances, interviews, and even haircuts are developed by web designers and artificial intelligence.
Han Su-min, a 19-year-old resident of Seoul, remarked, “When I first saw Mave, it was unclear if they were real people or computer-generated characters.” Because I frequently utilize metaverse platforms with my pals, I believe I may become a fan of theirs.
The group’s nearly human-like avatars offer a preview of how the metaverse is likely to develop as South Korea’s entertainment and technology sectors collaborate on emerging technology.
It also signals a significant effort by the tech titan Kakao Corp to become a dominant player in the entertainment industry. In addition to supporting MAVE: Kakao announced a tender bid last week to acquire South Korean K-pop pioneer SM Entertainment for 1.25 trillion won ($960 million).
Popular K-pop groups including Girls’ Generation, H.O.T., EXO, Red Velvet, Super Junior, SHINee, NCT Dream, and Aespa are signed to SM.
Kakao declined to comment on how it would balance the management of actual and virtual bands.
The company’s wager on the metaverse goes against a worldwide trend. In order to weather the economic slump, major technology corporations, like Facebook’s parent company Meta Platforms Inc and China’s Tencent Holdings, have reduced their expenditure on virtual worlds.
Kakao stated before that it had invested 12 billion won in Metaverse Entertainment, a joint venture with Netmarble Corp to establish MAVE:.
Nevertheless, the corporation declined to provide income projections for the collaboration.
Chu Ji-yeon, the CEO of Metaverse Entertainment, stated that MAVE is a “continuing” initiative designed to explore new commercial prospects and overcome technological obstacles.
South Korea is not unfamiliar with the notion. Adam, a virtual vocalist, debuted in 1998, while K/DA, a K-pop female group inspired by characters from the computer game League of Legends, debuted 20 years later. No one took flight.
Since then, however, South Korean technology has made significant strides in the creation of virtual characters. According to observers, MAVE’s facial emotions and tiny features, such as hairstreaks, are more realistic due to the makers’ usage of modern techniques and artificial intelligence.
With the use of an artificial intelligence voice generator, its members can speak Korean, English, French, and Bahasa. Yet, they cannot respond to instructions and must rely on scripts created by people.
The vocals heard in the group’s debut single “Pandora” were generated by human actors using motion capture and real-time 3D rendering technology.
The COVID-19 epidemic, according to experts, encouraged the rise of such virtual personas, as many K-pop organizations shifted their focus to online material to satisfy homebound fans.
“Fans were accustomed to consuming non-face-to-face information and communicating with their idol groups for nearly three years,” said pop culture critic and Seoul National University professor Lee Jong-im. It appears that they have become more receptive to the idea that virtual and real idol groups may coexist.
While virtual bands such as MAVE: are generating news for their novelty, doubts remain as to whether they can equal the engagement between traditional popular bands and their legions of followers.
“Virtual idols will behave just as manufactured. Yet without any unpredictability, they will resemble video technology rather than K-pop, according to Lee Gyu-tag, associate professor of cultural studies at George Mason University Korea.
However, MAVEinventors:’s and representatives of the entertainment business are optimistic about its possibilities.
Roh Shi-yong, head producer of a weekly music show on local TV station MBC that showed MAVEperformance:’s twice, remarked, “After receiving so many reactions from all around the world, I’ve discovered that audiences do desire something fresh and are rather receptive to it.”