In this article:
- Metaverse’s Polar has made waves online as a new virtual popstar with a legion of fans and followers.
- Polar was created as a popstar within Avakin Life, a video game from TheSoul Publishing. TheSoul Publishing also happens to be the same company behind 5-Minute Crafts.
- While it might seem like a novel concept, internet users quickly noticed design similarities between Polar and Vocaloid superstar Hatsune Miku, drawing comparisons between the two.
- Polar isn’t the first to try and enter the virtual star market that Hatsune Miku carved out over a decade ago. Other virtual influencers have tried to recreate her fame with varying degrees of success.
Polar has been making waves lately and not all of them are good. While the bright teal-haired singer has tried to earn a name for herself as a metaverse singer and influencer, many people who saw the viral Al Jazeera article about her couldn’t help but notice how similar she looked to an older, and far more popular, digital popstar — Hatsune Miku.
And as for virtual influencer? Miku’s spiritual successors already have it covered.
Polar Who?: An Intro to the Virtual Popstar From Avakin Life
If you’ve somehow not heard of the metaverse even after Facebook’s name change to Meta, the metaverse is, at its most basic form, an immersive and interactive digital environment. What exactly the metaverse is is still up for debate as opinions on it range from claiming that the metaverse is still a few years away to those saying that we’re already living in the metaverse. Think of early MMORPGs like Ragnarok and World of Warcraft whose in-game multi-player options have allowed for friendships (and even marriages) to blossom.
Okay, metaverse covered. Let’s move on to Polar herself.
Polar is a digital popstar found within the world of Avakin Life. Avakin Life is a video game that claims to be a 3D virtual world where you can experience “unlimited ways to be you”. The game is owned by TheSoul Publishing which is the same company behind YouTube channel 5-Minute Crafs.
As with many things offered to us lowly consumers, it’s not exactly revolutionary either. Games like Second Life have been around for much longer and offer better support for user-made in-game content.
In Avakin Life, Polar is a singer and influencer with thousands of followers. She also has a TikTok account where she asks players questions that wouldn’t be out of place in a teenage social media influencer’s account.
Metaverse’s Polar initially gained traction after she released a music video titled “Close to You“. She currently has around 645,000 followers on YouTube.
And that’s about it. Singer and pop star. What’s been funny, though, is how she’s been hailed as a rising global star together with other virtual popstar newcomers given that virtual models have been around for years and, if anything, Polar’s reliance on a human voice and body to move her digital avatar is a step backward from advancements we’ve seen in the past decade.
Weebs Have Seen Polar Before and Her Name Is Hatsune Miku
If you’ve been online long enough, you’d know Polar is not only not new but brings nothing new to the table. We’ve seen CGI animated music videos before made on programs like MikuMikuDance. (Note: If you’ve seen a videogame character dancing on YouTube, chances are someone took the time to import their model to MMD). Body tracking models that dance along with the user? League of Legends’ K/DA and Japanese virtual YouTubers (VTubers) have been doing it for years.
While Metaverse’s Polar still “dreams” of performing in real-life, her predecessor has already done it in front of millions, going on live hologram concerts all the way from Japan to Minnesota where she opened for Lady Gaga.
Her name? Hatsune Miku.
Hatsune Miku is a virtual popstar created by Crypton Future Media. Perhaps Crypton had an idea of how impactful Miku would later become given that her name literally means “The Sound of the Future” in Japanese.
As a Vocaloid, she was meant to be little more than a software voice bank that producers and songwriters can use as their personal vocal instrument. Kind of like having an on-demand singer sing your songs for you.
But her cute design inspired users and fans to make art using her image and the succeeding years of songwriters portraying her as a real person with her own emotions and character arc have cemented her as a popstar rather than a software.
Hatsune Miku has been an unstoppable cultural hurricane since then and her fans have put her in everything from anime to their personal music projects.
The secret to Miku’s success? Aside from being an early player, the “popstar as software” idea behind Vocaloid means that everyone owns Hatsune Miku. Not in the legal sense, of course, but ideas and concepts are, naturally, a little harder to kill when there’s an entire community creating with her rather than just being a captive audience.
But with success comes copycats.
Hatsune Miku’s virality and staying power proved that the world was ready for a fully-realized digital superstar.
Everybody Wants to Be Miku: A Look at All the Metaverse Polars We’ve Seen Over the Years
As the saying goes, imitation is the best form of flattery but not all of Hatsune Miku’s copycats have been particularly good let alone anywhere near as successful. Metaverse’s Polar is just one of the many Miku-A-Likes we’ve seen over the years.
Miquela, a controversial Miku-aspirant, launched her career in 2016 on Instagram where she claimed to be a 19-year-old robot living in Los Angeles, California. But to be fair to Miquela, she’s more of a persona than an actual robot since her creator, transmedia studio Brud, simply animated her on top of an actual person who then roleplays as if she’s a robot. The pretend is part of the immersion and, frankly, the concept is far more original.
She’s received criticism over the potential ethical implications of her being a virtual popstar, particularly concerns about her never being able to object to less-than-ethical advertisements and inability to make statements of her own — both of which make for a dangerous combination with an influencer status.
But really, VTubers have far stricter contracts and guidelines for behavior. It’s an open secret in the VTuber industry that you lose your audience when your contract ends because your fame is attached to the anime model that you were introduced to the internet with, not you. This gives companies like Nijisanji and Hololive, two of the leading VTuber agencies in Japan and abroad, unprecedented control over their talents’ careers.
Aside from playing video games, recording ASMR videos, and interacting with fans, VTubers are expected o sing.
The difference between them and Polar? VTuber agencies know their target market because it’s the same market that Hatsune Miku created over a decade ago.
Hatsune Miku’s copycats and spiritual successors will come and go, but for now, just like she says, the world remains hers.