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by Yuji Oniki

t was bound to happen--virtual celebrities. In Japan we now have the first virtual "idol" out now on cyberspace. Its launch pad, the horipro talent agency in Japan, is only in the embryonic stages of creating this virtual celebrity, DK-96, short for "Digital Kids" and "Kyoko Date". As far as her predecessors go you can find virtual "idols" appearing in anime like Macross Plus and Megazone 23 with one noticeable difference: DK-96 really exists.


Her sign is Scorpio. She's from a nuclear family of four. Her father is a 40 year old sushi meister. Soldiers stationed at the Yokota military base frequent dad's sushi joint to nibble on their fav california rolls. Her mom's 40 years old (for some reason we know a lot more about dad than mom) and the sister's one year her senior (DK-95?). Collecting sneakers, learning foreign languages, and photography are DK-96's hobbies. She loves chewing and chocolates. She can't stand the sight of raw egg drenched rice (who doesn't?). Her favorite colors are black and white. Her favorite singer is Mariah Carey and favorite guys include Christian Slater and Goku from Dragon Ball. She plays a whole variety of sports but boxing is her passion right now cuz it's good for her diet and sense of rhythm. Her favorite movie is--surprise, surprise--Toy Story.


"Hey, wait, what's the big deal? I coulda done the same thing. Scanned in a montage of body parts and then open up a website." Well, this is only the beginning. DK-96 may only exist on the website for now but it'll only be a matter of time before this figment of software imagination spills over into our "real" world. VSL (Visual Science Lab) is collaborating with other promoters, music producers, ad agencies, television networks to crossover into our three dimensional world. Future projects include televised conversations between DK-96 and real-life celebrities. How far away are we from the day we can't tell one from the other?


Somewhere in the middle of these thoughts I had a deja vu: haven't I seen this before in some not so pleasant form like a bad hangover from the 80's? Of course, Max Headroom! A virtual celebrity, a guy who interacted with real people. So maybe this ain't so new after all. That's when the gap between Max from the 80's and DK in 1996 dawned on me. Max was a man without any past. A man ahead of his time, a truly science fiction character in the dedicated sense of it being extremely difficult to imagine a life outside TV. Max did not take a morning jog around the block. DK-96 on the other hand talks about the most mundane things around her life despite the fact that she's a concoction of technology. Like other "real" idols in Japan, her mind isn't set on the big picture, but her humdrum daily life. Just the virtual girl next door.

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