Only Autograph Remain Out of Reach, Says Virtual K-Pop Bands

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    The digital industry has encountered an unexpected development with global sensation K-POP at the crossroads of an AI-driven revolution.

    Popularity of virtual K-POP bands demonstrate Technology is about making life simpler and redefining entertainment.

    AI enters the K-POP arena

    For example, Eternity is a Korean band that boasts 11 AI-generated members. Their latest single “DTDTGMGN” encapsulates the core of his K-pop with its vivid setting and energetic rhythm. But what makes them different is that none of these band members actually appear in real life. Therefore, there are no tangible joys such as fan meetings, tactile goods, autographs, etc.

    Pulse9 is leading Eternity’s digitalization efforts behind the scenes. One of his members in the band, Zae-in, particularly embodies the limitless possibilities of this AI-driven entertainment realm. By utilizing real-time face exchange and his AI voice generation, Zae-in fluidly absorbs his 10 talents, from actors to singers. Moreover, her adaptability extends beyond her music.

    Early reactions to Eternity were polarized, with the eerie nature of the virtual presence causing anxiety. But over time, the lines between these digital avatars and their real-world counterparts have become blurred. What’s more, the songs also benefit from his AI.

    For example, Pulse9’s track “No Filter” combines human creativity with the power of AI. Notably, established companies like SM Entertainment are also exploring this space, hinting at the direction in which the wind is blowing.

    Beyond Eternity: MAVE’s Digital Symphony

    In parallel, another virtual phenomenon, MAVE, is also gaining traction. Supported by Kakao Corp., MAVE members (SIU, ZENA, TYRA, MARTY) exist only in the digital realm. Featuring intricate designs and sophisticated avatars, these members demonstrate the evolution of AI in the entertainment industry.

    Using advanced speech generators, the band communicates in four languages. Still, they rely on predetermined scripts, drawing a line between spontaneity and programming.

    Additionally, South Korea is familiar with the concept of virtual entertainers. 1998’s Virtual His Singer Adam and later his K/DA, inspired by the video game League of Legends, ventured into this territory. However, advances in AI and digital graphics have enabled the current generation of virtual bands to achieve unparalleled realism.

    These avatars feature intricate facial expressions and detailed nuances such as distinct hair lines, setting them apart from previous efforts.

    Experts agree that the pandemic has accelerated the acceptance of these AI-driven entertainers. Lee Jeong-im, a pop culture analyst at Seoul National University, observes that the prolonged pandemic has encouraged fans to reconcile with non-physical entertainment. Importantly, the distinction between virtual and real is fading.

    However, challenges are inevitable. The organic and unpredictable nature of human entertainers gives them irreplaceable charm. Cultural studies expert Lee Gyu-tag opines that without this unpredictability, virtual idols might be seen as nothing more than a sophisticated technological tool.

    Fusion of tradition and technology

    The current wave of AI-driven K-pop bands is garnering global attention, but the road ahead is complicated. But the traditional fan-artist bond, deeply rooted in real-world interactions, spontaneous performances, and human nuances, cannot be fully imitated by a virtual idol.

    However, there is no denying that there is widespread interest in these digital bands. As the line between real and virtual continues to blur, the K-pop industry may be at an exciting turning point. It remains to be seen whether AI-driven bands will complement, coexist with, or overshadow human bands.


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