Kizuna AI

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Kizuna AI
Kizuna AI.png
First appearanceNovember 29, 2016[1]
Created byMorikura En (character design)[2]
Tomitake (3D model)[2]
Tda (modeling supervision)[2]
Voiced byUndisclosed[3][4]
Information
Full nameKizuna Ai
Nickname(s)Ai-chan
Ponkotsu AI (Useless AI)
AliasesOyabun (Master)
SpeciesArtificial intelligence
GenderUndisclosed[5] (dresses as female)[6]
OccupationVirtual YouTuber, Virtual idol

Kizuna AI (Japanese: キズナアイ), or Ai Kizuna in western order, is a Japanese virtual YouTuber and self-proclaimed artificial intelligence.[7] As of 2018, she currently operates two YouTube channels, "A.I.Channel" and "A.I.Games," and proclaims to be the world's first Virtual YouTuber.[8] On 29 November 2016, Kizuna AI started posting videos on her first YouTube channel, "A.I.Channel". Then, in March 2017; as Kizuna began gaining views from regions such as Japan and South Korea, she opened her second channel, "A.I.Games", which focuses on more gaming-related content.

Her character design was done by Morikura En and 3D modelling done by Tomitake with supervision from Tda.[2] However, the identities of Kizuna AI's voice and other personnel involved are currently unknown. Many speculate that Kizuna AI was created using the MikuMikuDance software, and given facial expression and actions using motion capture technology. Video content by Kizuna AI is similar to many other YouTubers, mainly discussions, Q&A videos, featuring questions from viewers and more traditional "Let's Play" videos on her alternate account; A.I.Games. Although Kizuna is only capable of speaking in Japanese, fans are allowed to contribute translations for her videos in many other languages via her Discord Server

Kizuna has set up an official website, as well as an account on social media service as Twitter, Which mainly serves as a base for interaction with fans, as well as where questions for Q&A videos come from. Kizuna AI has also performed at the various Anime Conventions, and has also worked with many game companies. As the world's forerunning Virtual YouTuber, some viewers and critics feel that this video model will set a new trend in the YouTube market, and also represents a major step in Technology.

Production[edit]

Development[edit]

Kizuna AI is an online virtual character completely constructed using software.[9] As the identities of producers in the background are not revealed,[10][11] video animators, producers, editors,[12] voice actors and players of games are unknown.[13][14] However, the videos have maintained a high production standard in aspects such as character design, multi-directional editing and movement handling, far exceeding the level of hobbyists. Kizuna AI's YouTube channels are thought to be managed by an entire production crew,[15] and the choice to remain anonymous comes from the wish to keep the concept of a virtual idol intact.[16][17] Though this has caused speculation regarding the operation crew and technology.[18] Reddit users have speculated that Kizuna AI is run by the company "Project AI".[18]

All crew members known so far to be involved in Kizuna AI's design are already well known.[19][20] These include Morikura En in character design, [16] Tomitake in 3D modelling, and Tda in modelling supervision.[21][8][22] Morikura is an artist[16] well-known for illustrating cute artworks.[20] Tomitake has designed many 3D models, and works alongside Tda, who is an expert in the MikuMikuDance 3D modelling field.

As the virtual idol of "A.I.Channel",[23] plus her charming personality and moe (cute) traits,[16] Kizuna A.I. is sometimes thought to be voiced by a professional.[20] However, the identity of her voice actor has never been made public.[24] Officially, though, no one has publicly taken on the role as voice actor,[20] and there are no plans to publicly announce any more information on the topic.[23] Some speculate that Kizuna AI's voice and actions are provided by the same person, as they are in sync with each other.[15]

Character Image[edit]

Kizuna AI is aware that she is a virtual character,[25] and claims that she is an independent artificial intelligence (Hence the name; Kizuna A.I).[19][26] The main concept of a character in a virtual setting was created through Kizuna, so she is publicly recognized as the world's first "virtual YouTube user".[8] Kizuna AI hopes to communicate with her audience through YouTube[25], and become a YouTuber who is so popular that she gets invited to shoot advertisements, which, again, bears many similarities to "Real" YouTubers..[13][20] She wants to become even better than Hatsune Miku, who is currently the most well known of the "Virtual Idols." As for her personal goals, Kizuna wishes to mediate the conflicts between humans and technology such as artificial intelligence and virtual reality.[8] She also wants to find ways to get humans to coexist with technology, especially in a world where technology is causing many worries in humans.[22]

In her first video, Kizuna AI introduces herself. Apart from the general meaning of "artificial intelligence", "AI" is also a pun on the Japanese word "愛", meaning "love".[27] Kizuna AI is designed as a young and beautiful 2.5D animated girl with moe elements, which attracts many YouTube users.[9][18][24] Kizuna's appearance age is roughly 16 years old,[14] though she revealed that she is only five, with her birthday on the 30th June.[20] She has a height of 156cm, a weight of roughly 46kg, and her three measurements are 85-59-83.[20] She has a lively personality, a sweet voice and a unique method of speaking.[12][24]

Kizuna AI's overall appearance uses a pink and white color palette.[24]. She has long flowing hair[9][18],coupled with a futuristic gradient hair dye of pink.[28] She wears a pink wobbly hairband with a butterfly knot.[9][18] The hairband has a double-leaf heart-shaped design, corresponding to the word "Ai", meaning "love", in her name.[28] Kizuna AI's sleeveless white top brings about a futuristic feel as well.[15] It is designed to put emphasis on her back and body, as well as to make her appear slimmer. Embroidered above her chest is the letter "A".[28] Her arm sleeves and thigh highs are decorated with lace, while her thigh highs and shorts form an "absolute territory".[28]

Kizuna Ai is apparently a huge fan of Love Live! and Love Live! School Idol Festival. Her favorite character is Nico Yazawa.[29] During an interview with PANORA, Kizuna AI mentioned that she is paying close attention to idol groups such as Keyakizaka46 and Nogizaka46. Kizuna AI likes how idols follow their dreams just like herself.[28] In her character design, she also likes to spend time in virtual space playing video games.[30]

Technology used[edit]

Even though Kizuna AI claims to be an artificial intelligence, most disagree.[23] Kizuna AI is able to livestream and record videos in a virtual environment; this is generally considered to rely on the free software MikuMikuDance. After the production crew designs a 3D model, they manually control the model to make certain movements.[12] Then, they hire a voice actor to give the animation a voice.[11][15][17][23][27] MikuMikuDance has often been used in the videos of Vocaloid pop music,[13][31] allowing users to import and control the 3D models of virtual characters such as Hatsune Miku.[32]

On the other hand, some netizens think that Kizuna AI's facial expressions and eye changes are done through facial tracking using facial recognition software such as FaceRig.[23][33] The technology of FaceRig Live2D modules has already existed for a considerable amount of time. Some feel that Kizuna AI is a result of applying this technology to 3D models, similarly by projecting facial expressions onto a virtual reality model,[19][34] thereby hiding the identities of creators and actors involved.[27] At the same time, some think that omni-directional motion capture technology is being used.[35]. After recording the actions of real actors, this data is used to simulate movement of the character in a virtual reality setting.[10][18] Both methods allow Kizuna AI to resemble real people more closely in terms of expressions and actions, overall making Kizuna AI's videos more similar to those of other female YouTubers.[23]

Activities[edit]

YouTube Channels[edit]

Unlike Hatsune Miku, whose focus is on music, Kizuna AI's goal is to develop herself as a Virtual YouTuber, so she mainly posts videos on her YouTube channels.[9][13][19] The YouTube channel "A.I.Channel" was created on 18 October 2016, though Kizuna AI only started posting videos on 29 November 2016.[36][37] She creates, designs and hosts a series of videos with a mix of wacky and serious elements.[16] These videos are designed to break the boundaries between virtual and real spaces, and involves activities such as television-like show-hosting and virtual reality.[8] The production crew also wishes for the audience to get in touch with and experience the newest technology, even allowing users to interact directly with Kizuna AI in virtual space.[22]

Kizuna AI posts videos almost every day on YouTube, and is recognized as an active user of the video-sharing platform.[27] Kizuna AI is also the world's first Virtual YouTuber.[30] Due to the fact that she is not a real person, as well as other elements such as her cute appearance, liveliness, charming personality,[17] Kizuna AI's popularity as a YouTuber and her subscriber count continue to grow,[27][33] making her a trending and rising YouTuber,[32][38] as well as one of Japan's most popular users of YouTube.[39] Apart from getting the attention of viewers from her origin country of Japan,[9] she is also gaining traction in regions around the globe.[12][17][20]

However, in January 2017, Kizuna AI jokingly mentioned in the video "A.I.Channel流・炭酸ジュース風呂!!" that her clothes are merely holographic projections,[40] so she is technically always naked.[15][19] YouTube detected the use of the word "naked" and decided that the video contained inappropriate content, so "A.I.Channel" was banned.[15][19] The content had to be posted on another video sharing site, Niconico.[16] After several weeks, the channel was unbanned in February.[15][40][32][37][41] Despite the ban, Kizuna AI's popularity grew tremendously[17] and her subscriber count reached 100,000 on 25 February.[42]

By the end of March, Kizuna AI had already uploaded more than 60 videos.[13] "A.I.Channel" had exceeded 200,000 subscribers[18] and 5 million comments.[14] On 31 March, Kizuna AI even started releasing gaming content on a new channel named "A.I.Games".[37][43][44][45] "A.I.Games" was blocked for unknown reasons on 17 April but was unblocked and resumed posting videos within a day.[46]

"A.I.Channel" has since reached 2 million subscribers on 15 July 2018.[47] "A.I.Games" also reached 1 million subscribers on 14 August 2018.[48]

Other activities[edit]

Even though Kizuna AI often receives favourable reviews, she comments that she lacks funds,[19] and her channels are not seen as stable models for profit.[15]

Apart from her YouTube channels and official website, Kizuna AI has also created Twitter and Instagram accounts to facilitate interaction with fans.[25][30][49] She also holds limited-time events occasionally, such as a Valentine's Day chocolate giveaway in 2017.[50]

In mid-January 2017, even though "A.I.Channel" was blocked at the time, Kizuna AI still accepted an interview by PANORA, a website focusing on the topic of virtual reality.[19][42] The interview was divided into four parts and posted on Kizuna AI's official website.[51] Then, on 25 and 26 March 2017, Kizuna AI performed live on the stage of AnimeJapan. It was designed to allow direct interaction with fans.[26][52]

In April 2017, a collaboration between Kizuna AI and Japanese video game development company Asobimo was announced.[30] On the newly-created "A.I.Games" channel, Kizuna AI would periodically post videos of her doing a commentary while playing Avabel Online, Asobimo's new MMORPG designed for smartphones.[37][53] Kizuna AI would also appear directly in the game.[41][54][55] Afterwards, there would occasionally be recommendation videos of the game.[56]

Kizuna AI is the ambassador for one of JNTO's Japanese tourism campaigns, Kizuna AI Come to Japan![57] She has also hosted a television variety show titled Kizuna Ai no BEAT Scramble (キズナアイのBEATスクランブル, Kizuna Ai no BEAT Sukuranburu), which aired on Japan's BS NTV channel from 6 April 2018.[58] She also voiced Website Manager Hachi in the anime television series Magical Girl Site, which aired from the same day.[59] This is her first anime work.

To celebrate reaching 2 million subscribers on "A.I.Channel" on 15 July 2018, Kizuna AI released her first digital single "Hello, Morning".[60]

Videos[edit]

Content[edit]

Similar to many real YouTubers, Kizuna AI acts as a host on her YouTube channels,[40][61] creating and uploading various original types of entertainment-related videos,[17] thereby attracting viewers to subscribe to her channels.[35][62] Kizuna AI's videos contain lots of content similar to those found in video blogs. The lively Kizuna AI[19] will also imitate the interesting behaviour of other YouTubers.[32] The style of these videos largely give off a funny and cute atmosphere, and using technology lets the character move smoothly.[9] Videos sometimes add content of a more imaginative or animated style, though bugs in the software may cause Kizuna AI to move rather unnaturally.[9]

On average, Kizuna AI's videos are about 10 minutes long.[13] Video content includes chatting, sharing life stories,[62][63] answering questions, fulfilling requests,[25][26] hosting discussions on trending topics,[15] accepting interviews,[14] recording "Let's Play" gaming videos,[36] dancing,[64] accepting strange challenges,[23] doodling[27] and many others. She has discussed about artificial intelligence,[13], virtual reality, games, things she likes,[31] and how she wants a Wikipedia page dedicated to herself. She has also talked about buying friends with money, what furniture she wants to have,[32] and even arranging for herself kanji ability tests, physical tests,[20] a soda bath[19] and many others.

Games[edit]

Even though Kizuna AI is not real, she often posts videos of herself giving commentaries while playing games on YouTube.[9][62] As a virtual Let's Play show host,[62] Kizuna AI's game operating techniques seem a little clumsy,[24] though like other gaming YouTubers,[62] she makes seemingly real comments and reactions to the games that she likes.[17][18][36] The most viewed and most popular gaming video by Kizuna AI is her Let's Play of popular indie game Inside.[23] In the video, Kizuna AI expresses shock to certain parts of the game.[9]

Some of Kizuna AI's videos involve augmented reality and virtual reality games.[18] Using omnidirectional motion capture technology, a 3D model of Kizuna AI playing the game can be developed.[10][35] Virtual reality games played by Kizuna AI include extreme sports game The Climb,[24] first-person shooter game Superhot,[13] drawing software Tilt Brush[45] and more. Kizuna AI has also attempted to describe English words in Quick, Draw!, explore Tokyo virtually using Google Maps,[38][62] and talk with other AI such as Apple iPhone Assistant Siri.[26][33]

Subtitles[edit]

The language used in all of Kizuna AI's videos is Japanese.[27][31] This made it difficult for a large portion of viewers to understand specific content of videos.[63] Afterwards, "A.I.Channel" and "A.I.Games" allowed bilingual fans to translate Japanese in videos to other languages.[33] With the help of translations offered by fans, Kizuna AI's channels were able to offer content in many different languages including Japanese, English, Korean, Spanish,[17] and many others.[65] This has allowed global audiences to understand the comments made by Kizuna AI in her videos, and has helped to grow her audience outside of Japan.[9][33] Korean and English comments take up similar portions in the comments section of Kizuna AI's videos.[42]

Impact[edit]

Kizuna AI cosplayer

Opinions[edit]

Kizuna AI is the spearhead of the Virtual YouTuber trend.[20][38][66] Due to her sweet, lively and moe image, she is popular among audiences from Japan, Korea, and all around the world.[66] Fans affectionately call her "Ai-chan".[23] Character designs such as Kizuna AI are seen as a revolutionary concept,[9] and could be the precursor of a new trend in virtual reality, virtual YouTube users and live-streamers.[33][34][35]

2D virtual characters such as Hatsune Miku have been getting more popular, and the audience of 2D has been widening. Therefore, the concept of Kizuna AI as a YouTube video host is becoming more widely accepted. Some even feel that this could impact today's live-streaming market.[35] The profession of live-streaming usually requests for the constant production of original or exclusive content for the audience, and 2D live-streaming can be a method of doing so. [35] Also, in the regular YouTube market, virtual streaming can be an alternative for those who are unable or do not wish to reveal their face in front of the camera, because exquisite character designs can make up for the imperfections in real people. Virtual streaming also allows the production crew to create more than one character.[15] For example, Black AI is another artificial intelligence who appears several times in Kizuna AI's videos, and seems to be animated in the same fashion as Kizuna AI.

Tubefilter writer Sam Gutelle thinks that even though characters like Kizuna AI may be seen as oddities now, they will become more common in the future.[31] The Verge columnist Rich McCormick feels that Kizuna AI is different from other content creators as she can technically play games as long as she wants without the need for food and sleep. This will bring channels more flexibility,[31] and these types of videos may even be the future of YouTube.[13] BBC thinks that the selling point of virtual characters is that they are not like other YouTubers. Their appearance will never age, and related development is still in its beginning stages.[11]

Fandom activities[edit]

On the Christmas of 2016, Kizuna AI's producers decided to put up her MikuMikuDance 3D model for free download and edits on her official site.[8][23][63][67] This was to allow interested fans to produce doujin products.[16] The 3D model can be used in MikuMikuDance, Unity, Unreal Engine and other spaces.[22] The developers even made the model compatible with virtual reality.[8] The virtual model is allowed use in videos and games, but for business purposes it is required that the developers are contacted.[8] Finally, the use of the model in political, racial or religious settings or to create other models is prohibited.[21][25][67]

Many fans show their appreciation and love for Kizuna AI in different ways.[26] Some cosplay as Kizuna AI at conventions. The derivative work of some fans is shared to the rest of the fanbase on Kizuna AI's social media accounts.[23] On YouTube, there are many users who name their accounts "Kizuna Ai", "キズナアイ" or other related names. Some repost her videos but only the official "A.I.Channel" offers subtitles for many languages.[16] There are also dancing-related videos.[16][20] However, some groups decide to produce hentai of Kizuna AI instead.[68]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]