An android actor has entered stage left for a play in Japan. The cybernetic scene-stealer is treading the boards while a holographic pop princess tours the country, playing live to fans -- despite being an artificial construct made entirely of light.
Film studio execs might appreciate talent that won't ever forget its lines, turn up hungover for a scene or refuse to come out of its trailer because its shih tzu has a sniffle. Unfortunately, Geminoid F, the star of a play entitled Sayonara, isn't exactly MRL Str33p or Hel-1 Mirr-N just yet.
As well as the unsettling uncanny valley effect of disturbingly lifelike robots, the mechanoid thespian stays seated during the play, and is in fact controlled by a human operator operating 12 motors thoughout the performance. Nonetheless, we're looking forward to the day that Robot D-Nr-0, UN M-Greg-R, and L-Machine-0 answer the smell of the axle-grease and the roar of the crowd.
Meanwhile, J-Pop fans are going nuts for Hatsune Miku, an artifically-generated holographic pop star created by Crypton Future Media. She began life as a pattern in Vocaloid, a piece of voice-synthesising software used by songwriters -- including Mike Tubular Bells Oldfield -- to create realistic vocals from a library of artificial voices.
Every pop star -- and movie star, and anybody in the public eye -- is a projection of an artificially created persona. What are music videos but pop-star avatars? Stars from David Bowie and Madonna to Lady GaGa are elaborately-crafted characters, separate from the real David Jones, Madonna Ciccone or Stefani Germanotta.
Live performance, however, has up until now been the final frontier, the opportunity for fans to see their heroes -- and see if they can do it for real. Damon Albarn's Gorillaz played live with giant screens displaying Jamie Hewlett's cartoon band concealing the real band, but the sound was still coming from the mouth of a real person.
By contrast, Hatsune Miku puts us in mind of William Gibson's cyberpunk novel Idoru, in which a holographic Japanese pop idol becomes an emergent artificial intelligence.
The holographic headliner and replicant actor just go to show that, compared to us, the Japanese really do live in the future.