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Virtual Celebrity

So there's this new performer taking the entertainment world by storm. She's gorgeous, she's talented, she's got tons of fans... and she's not real. Well, not a flesh-and-blood human, anyway. (Whether that makes her not real is sometimes debatable.) She's some sort of program or AI, created specifically to be an actor, Idol Singer, or what have you. Most often her artificial nature will be concealed from the world, though there's the occasional Cyber Punk or Post Cyber Punk setting where celebrities (sometimes, all celebrities, or at least the majority) are known to be virtual and nobody cares.

Any metaphors occurring to you about how celebrities are manufactured and marketed as products? Don't be such a cynic.

These do exist in reality; they usually either have a Kayfabe while clearly being fictional, or are openly marketed as virtual celebrities for the sake of a gimmick, but at least one, Aimi Eguchi, had been successfully passed off as a real person.

Not to be confused with Synthetic Voice Actor. Compare Reused Character Design.

Examples:

Anime and Manga
  • Sharon Apple in Macross Plus
  • In Mega Man NT Warrior, there's a virtual Idol Singer, Aki-chan. And every nearby male Navi crushes on her, from Gutsman to MegaMan himself. Roll isn't pleased.
  • Eve Tokimatsuri of Megazone 23.
  • Mnemosyne has an example of this in episode four. The basis of the virtual celebrity is her memories and thoughts, sucked from the Mad Scientist's daughter, killing her.
  • American manga (that's not a contradiction in this case) Reality Check! ends up with three of these. Two of them don't know about the world outside the computer, but are self-aware enough to think of themselves as actors before an audience. The other one does know there's a world out there.
  • Android Announcer Maico 2010: An android radio announcer.
  • Nekomimi A and Nekomimi B, twin catgirl robots, are apparently the idols of the Transformers Energon world, making cafeteria apperances, hosting virtual gladiator matches, and even starring in their own in-series manga.
  • Internet psychic Talisman and virtual anarchist Spooky Boogie from ''PsychoPass'

Comic Book

Film
  • Phony actress Simone in the movie S1m0ne is a particularly strong example in that there isn't even an AI involved - 'her' controller speaks for 'her' and programmes 'her' movements directly, making Simone spiritually more akin to a ventriloquists dummy.
  • Variation in The Associate.
  • There was a Disney Channel original movie called Pixel Perfect on this subject. Some boy designed her, and they realized she was good at music, and she posed as a real girl for quite some time until she glitched and flickered onstage. Once word got out, she became even more immensely popular.

Literature
  • Rei Toei and the other idorus in William Gibson's Idoru
  • There's a book by Norman Spinrad, Little Heroes, based upon several of those.
  • James Tiptree, Jr's short story The Girl Who Was Plugged In posits a dystopian future where corporations control everything; advertising is forbidden, so corporations have to use celebrity product placements. Delphi is created to be the perfect celebrity spokesmodel, but needs a person to run her.

Music

Live-Action TV
  • Max Headroom, who went on to become this in real life (except that it was a character played by Matt Frewer in a foam suit in real life), with his own talk show (for which the character was actually created: the pilot didn't turn into its own fiction series for a few years until after a jump across the pond).
  • The Muppets are basically treated like real life celebrities everywhere they appear.
  • In the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Virtuoso", the Emergency Medical Hologram finds himself a celebrity among the Qomar ? smug, isolationist aliens who've never heard music before. This newfound fame goes to his head and he seriously considers leaving Voyager, only to find his Qomar girlfriend has created a 'better' version of himself.

New Media

Video Games
  • One of the singers whose music you can purchase for BGM in Phantom Crash is actually just an A.I. Said A.I. (Mona Lisa) was created by and is used by the (first) game's Final Boss. Go figure.
  • NG Resonance from the game Deus Ex: Invisible War is a human pop star, but the AI controlled holographic copies of her fulfill this trope. It eventually transpires that the AI is actually a WTO controlled espionage system, and that the friendly and affable simulation is significantly different to the spoiled and inconsiderate original it was based on. You have the option to make the trope one hundred percent after you meet NG Resonance in person, you can shoot her (not a spoiler, since you can shoot anybody you come in contact with). Strangely, her AI alter ego doesn't seem to care.
  • In Deus Ex: Human Revolution, it turns out that Eliza Cassan is one of these, specifically engineered to alter human opinions through manipulation of communications and mass media.
  • Courtney Gears from the Ratchet & Clank games would be a perfect example, seeing as she's a robotic pop singer. She is not technically made to be a singer, but she fits.

Western Animation

Real Life
  • Probably the ultimate example: the Vocaloid programs. They seem to be the only example, real or fictional, of interactive virtual celebrities. Almost all of the songs, outfits, dance routines, etc. are fan-made; the songs in the official concerts were bought from the fans who wrote them. Some fans have even put on their own concerts, or created UTAU characters like Kasane Teto.
    • Especially Miku Hatsune (pictured above), who even has her own Facebook page). Virtual celebrity to the max! Hatsune Miku took the next step, aka Character Celebrity Endorsement, in a Toyota Corolla Commercial thanks to Toyota sponsoring her upcoming USA concert. She was recruited by Domino's Pizza to do the same for them, along with being featured in a pizza ordering app for iOS gadgets.
    • A copy of Vocaloid has been installed on the Real Life Gynoid "Aiko". There is "live" on stage performance: Hatsune Miku, thanks to the same rear-projecting technology that brought Gorillaz to a live performance.
    • Gumi will be joining in the live performance fun soon, as demonstrated at the Digital Content Expo using Augmented Reality.
    • The Crypton Vocaloids are in collaboration with Family Mart, advertising for the chain store. Hell, Kaito even has his own brand of ice cream.
  • Kyoko Date, who enjoyed some popularity in the late '90s but was something of a one-hit wonder, releasing only one single.
  • Gorillaz is arguably the most successful to date. They even performed "live" as holograms (using a technology called Pepper's Ghost) at the Grammy Awards back in 2006.
  • Aki Ross from Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, whom Square and Sony were marketing as a virtual celebrity of sorts, even planning to reuse her as a "virtual actress" in unrelated roles for future films. Of course, the film flopped (taking Square with it) and consigned Aki to the dustbin of history.
  • Alvin and the Chipmunks.
  • The Archies tried to be one. They had a hit single. That's about it.
  • The D series of survival horror games (which includes the otherwise unrelated Enemy Zero) stars a number of 'Digital Actors', character models which are reused with different roles and surnames. "Laura" plays the protagonist in all three (as Laura Harris in the D games and Laura Lewis in E0), while Kimberly and Parker from E0 show up as entirely unrelated characters in D2. The intention was to keep reusing Laura and others throughout numerous games, but poor sales put creators WARP out of business, and Laura has officially retired.
  • Konami tried to market Tokimeki Memorial's heroine Shiori Fujisaki as one, complete with several music albums, two music videos, and an official fan club. Apparently it didn't go very far thanks to several Ensemble Darkhorses such as Saki Nijino stealing the limelight.
  • Similar case as Simone from the film: Aimi Eguchi, the latest member of Japanese pop group AKB 48, was created as a composite using photoshopping techniques by blending the features of several of the other members of the group, and was passed off as a real artist. Before long fans got suspicious and the management spilled the beans.
  • Cartoon Network took several runs at this with varying degrees of success. Space Ghost Coast to Coast for one, Moxy the Dog (played by a motion captured Bobcat Goldthwait) for another.
  • The face of the Genki Rockets is the fictional character Lumi, born in space in the year 2037, and also appearing in the games Lumines II and Child of Eden. She is depicted as a "holographic" projection in live performances, similar to Miku Hatsune. Her appearance is based on Rachel Rhodes, and her voice is apparently a combination of Rhodes, Nami Miyahara, and possibly others.
  • The "Tupac hologram" that was employed at the 2012 Coachella Music Festival showcased another application of this trope. Rather than create an entirely fictional persona, the technology was used to bring "back to life" one who had been dead for fifteen years.
  • Ananova was touted as the world's first virtual newscaster. It didn't last.
  • Savlonic, a fictional band created by the guy who did Weebl & Bob.
  • Wiktoria Cukt, a 2000 Polish art project to create a "virtual presidential candidate" who has the perfect political platform—one made up of contributions by the web-surfers themselves.note 
  • Amber G is a very early one, having been around since at least 2003 (the year of her first album), her most recent album (her third) was released in 2008. However, her "career" never really went anywhere. Any "fame" she may have had was likely restricted to the website.

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Unusual User InterfaceCyberpunk TropesVirtual Ghost
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VocaloidImageSource/MusicSarashi

alternative title(s): Virtual Idol
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