In the Digital Age, Robots Can Be Pop Stars Too

Here’s a great blog post about a Japanese pop band, AKB 48, that just added a new member to it’s lineup. The only difference between she and the other 61 members: she’s a robot.

Apparently the fans love her, and why not? She appears to sing, she’s attractive, and she seems to avoid the uncanny valley–all good star qualities.

In an age where pop bands are the product of a swarm of individuals (not unlike like bee colonies), each focused on making his or her little contribution to the grander whole, why not enlist a robot as their public front? Milli Vanilli, the twin sensation that eventually fell from grace due to the revelation that they were lip syncing, might someday be seen as visionaries in a world of robot pop stars. Their only problem might turn out to have been that fans’ expectations were too conservative–why demand that the singers on stage actually be the same as the singers on the recording? Milli Vanilli, rather than being frauds, might merely have been ahead of their time. After all, we’ve recently abandoned the expectation that singers feature their own voices on recordings, it’s called autotune.

I suspect that in the future we’ll see more of this, especially as programmers get better at enabling their creations to elicit emotional responses from the fans. If a robotic singer can make ’em swoon, who needs the drama of a human to muddle up a perfect marketing opportunity?


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