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Chapter 14. Dead Stars and ‘Live’ Singers: Posthumous ‘Holographic’ Performances in the US and Japan

Author: Yuji Sone

Abstract: This essay examines the recent controversy concerning the modeling of performing ‘holograms’ on deceased singers in the USA and in Japan. Since the 2012 digital recreation of hip-hop artist Tupac Shakur, who died in 1996, ‘live’ concerts starring the holographic doubles of late, well-known singers such as Michael Jackson in 2014 and Whitney Houston in 2020 have been organized in the USA. In Japan, the public broadcaster NHK collaborated with Yamaha to produce a concert in 2019 that featured ‘AI Misora Hibari,’ a synthetic double of the late Japanese singer Misora Hibari. Misora, who rose to fame in the period following World War II, is regarded as one of Japan’s greatest singers of the 20th century. In this essay, I examine how the reception of AI Misora Hibari’s performance paralleled and diverged from the reception of some of its Western counterparts, referring to the debates that sprang from live performances featuring the digital double of Tupac Shakur. This essay contributes to Sound and Robotics by highlighting the significance of voice, and the implications of culturally specific contexts for robotics research.