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[Anime Key Player Interview #13]
Takeshi Osaka, CEO and Founder of Activ8 Inc.Part.3


Moving on, please tell us about “upd8.” I think you will support more virtual talents because it's a project that supports the community of them. What kind of benefits will there be for the participants and what kind of community are you aiming for?

First of all, the increase in revenue and business opportunities for the virtual talents. In addition, as an agent, we provide opportunities to make more people aware of us and offer promotions and tie-ups from companies. In order to increase opportunities for exposure, we also do casting for big events that can attract new fans. Since there are many individuals who work with us, we provide business support, legal support such as contracts and of course, video know-how. Our company develops technology to create content, builds motion capture systems, and operates recording studios.

In the future, we hope to hold higher value-added projects and events. For example, we should do things that are difficult to realize, such as online game competitions and music festivals that involve various YouTubers, not only talents produced by Activ8. Of course, we do matching of individual businesses and performers, but I think we should automate as much as possible to be able to move towards making bigger things happen.

©Kizuna AI ©2019 YuNi

That can't be done without a huge community.

That's right. Company size and thrust are important, but we also want to take the next step.

Next, I would like to know more about expanding overseas. Kizuna AI already has many overseas fans. What is the reason for this?

At first, Kizuna AI became a hot topic overseas. She first caught the eye of foreigners on her 3rd month after her debut, but news about her spread rapidly, especially in Asia, and then spread to North America. At that time, the concept was new, and it became popular overseas breaking the language barrier. On the other hand, in Japan, there were only 10% to 20% Japanese fans in the beginning, but since the virtual YouTuber boom started, the percentage has increased to about half. The reason why it took so long to become a buzz in Japan is because of the overflowing anime content here, so it took time to establish that this content was really new.

In terms of sensitivity to new things and art, it can be said that overseas countries are more sensitive than Japan because they relatively have less access to anime content. This is just a hypothesis, but for those who want Japanese anime content, there is no content that is frequently updated. A TV anime is, in general, only available once a week, but there is a new episode every dayfor virtual YouTubers. They are also active on Twitter. To foreigners, Kizuna AI must have seemed new to them, and they thought, "What is this?" In that sense, I think it was easy for foreigners to accept Kizuna AI at first.

Were multilingual subtitles activated on your YouTube channel from the beginning?

In the end, we did. In fact, from the beginning, fans used YouTube's features to add captions on their own. The videos were translated into about 30 languages at the most. It was on a communication tool called Discord where someone uploaded a video, they contacted each other and subtitled it. I think it was more difficult to understand than Hatsune Miku, but thanks to UGC (user generated content) like support, we were able to expand overseas.

I think recently, there are virtual YouTubers who speak English. Kizuna AI originally spoke in Japanese but now she speaks Chinese, too. Are you planning to increase the number of multilingual characters in the future?

Yes, I think we should increase them. Originally, there is the concept of wanting to connect with everyone, and the format is called virtual talent, which, overseas fans call virtual beings, and I think this is because there are no technological limits. I strongly feel that there is a meaning to virtual talents breaking boundaries. I think that the virtual streamers are also largely significant because we gave avatars to people, who do not want to show their faces but want to create and transmit their own content. It is wonderful in this sense. Kizuna AI shows that there is no limit to human beings, that there is no limit to technology produced by human beings, and that the future is infinite; that is why I produce such content. That's the source of my passion. There is a language barrier in connecting with people from overseas and there is no specific method to resolve this, but I think it is necessary to optimize the language of the content for that region. Of course, if there is are methods to connect in ways other than language, we will definitely use that method.

It would be great if people from overseas who are reading this would look forward to your content. You mentioned some overseas events a little while ago. Are there any overseas events that left an impression on you?

It's hard to choose. To be honest, the event that I was able to go to was very impressive (laughs). I wasn’t there on-site, but in 2018, we live-streamed a festival called "A.I. Party!" which is held at the end of June every year. We streamed in Taiwan, Thailand, Korea, and Japan at the same time, and I was able to see everything from Japan on TV. It was half a step ahead of the interactive streaming I talked about earlier, but it was very good because I felt the world was connected, and I experienced live performances across regions at the same time. It was interesting that fans from all over the country had their own unique way of showing their enthusiasm and could watch it at the same time, and I think it was a good event because the fans were very happy. I was able to see Kizuna AI being shown in different countries all at the same time, but unfortunately, the audience was only able to see the situation of the venue in Japan, so in the future, I would like to realize utilizing xR and online interactive streaming.


Do you have any plans to organize music events or other events overseas in the future?

We'd like to do a world tour but we are only at the stage where we want to do it. The world tour is already part of our plan. Since it’s a new content of virtual talents, we want to make sure that we use real-time animation and its video technology, and as I mentioned earlier, we’ll do this in a way that involves simultaneous interaction on multiple devices.

Lastly, virtual YouTubers have been around for three or four years, and I think it will continue to grow both as a business and as a content, but what do you think will be the future of the virtual YouTuber industry, including technical aspects?

I think the killer content of 5G is VR, and the killer content of interactive entertainment in VR are virtual talents. So when 5G and VR become widely used, virtual talents will definitely be the center. VR is often thought of as a closed world, but it's just about that space, and it has more freedom in how it can be delivered to users on smartphones and other devices. As I mentioned earlier, I believe that CG characters can create more interactive content that is easier to engage with. That’s why I think it will naturally become popular among the general public. Just as celebrities are starting to choose the platform called YouTube now, when the value of experience in a virtual world increases, people will move to that virtual world thinking that “there will be more business there,” “business in the virtual world will expand,” “they will be able to broadcast from home.” If this happens, famous artists and celebrities will actively expand their activities into VR by using avatars, creating monetization points and creating a big market.

As for avatars, it is still difficult to reproduce photorealistic things in CG. It is convenient to make the avatar slightly deformed. I am saying that "camouflage" for anonymity, but I think that virtual talents will become more commonplace and the value of virtual worlds will increase, not only because of the use of avatars in order to hide their faces but also because of the idea of using avatars to actively engage in the business market of virtual worlds. I think the quality and number of virtual YouTubers will increase. At present, only virtual YouTubers such as influencers and talents engage in activities such as music, or only streamers doing live streaming and so on, but I think that there will be breaking away from preconceived notions and generally famous people using avatars in virtual worlds will become commonplace.

That would change the world a lot. The content that users can enjoy will change greatly.

I think so. It's getting more and more common.

Could you then please tell us about Activ8 or your personal future goals and ambitions.

I want to create a virtual world and be able to live there. Activ8 has a mission to increase the choices of the world we live in, but it's often impossible to change because of physical constraints, happenings in the past, history, and so on. It can't be helped since there is no ultimate freedom. However, in the case of a virtual world, it would be made from scratch, and there would be many people who would be saved if there were planets like the Earth and other planets in the virtual world and if they could choose a place and a way of life that would be easy for them to live. At least I want that option.

I don't know if it's definitely better to live in a virtual world; I don't think so, but I think we can live if we have mental fulfillment and physical fulfillment. I think mental fulfillment depends on whether there is a community or not, but physical things such as hunger in the real world will not be satisfied even if you eat in the VR world. But you'll be able to make money. You can make money while you're in VR, and there's a community. If we can create an environment where we can achieve mental fulfillment, in a sense, I think living in that virtual world will work. I don’t think this won’t be too far in the future. So my ultimate goal is to create a virtual world. It's my ambition to add to this world another choice of living in another world.

That's great. It's like the movie "Ready Player One.”

It is ambitious, but I believe that it is essential to succeed in business in order to realize this. On top of that, I feel strongly about being born Japanese, so I would like to leverage the power of content that Japan has, and I would like to do business that will be able to be accepted by the world, no, to take the world by storm. I really want to be the next generation Walt Disney.

Finally, I always ask the question "What is anisong to you?" but this time I would like to conclude with the question "What is music for you?”

It is "the bond for connection.” It builds connections. This is what I think. I believe that the reason why Kizuna AI started music is because music has the effect of transcending logic and directly appealing to emotions, and I also feel a sense of unity when I go to music festivals, and a sense of empathy and resonance when I listen to music. Through music, fans go beyond empathy and resonate with their peers and people who feel the same way. Even if you don't know the language of Western music, (of course, it would be better if you could) there are still things that make you feel excited. I think that music goes beyond sympathy based on logic to resonance. It appears to be the best tool for connection. The destructive power of the music is so great that it will become a hook for the artists in the future and the background of the era. With that in mind, we run a music business for virtual talent. That's why I want to bring the essence of music to life for virtual talents.

Thank you for the fantastic talk!

Written by Gladys Angala


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