CNN fn News

Virtually a star
Japanese company creates digital teen idol
February 4, 1997
Web posted at: 6:00 p.m. EST (2300 GMT)
From Tokyo Bureau Chief John Lewis

TOKYO (CNN) -- Kyoko Date is becoming a real hit -- despite the fact she's not real.  Kyoko, who calls the World Wide Web home, is virtually 16 years old, give or take a few gigabytes. She struts her stuff outfitted in 8-centimeter-long short-shorts and a skimpy top. And she seems to be pushing all the right socio-psychological buttons in Japan -- she has just that desired mix of purity and lost innocence, she has the cute pout down pat, and she's fashionably slender in all the right places.

She's perfect, her creators say. 

Yoshitaka Hori

"She is what we think the ideal idol should be," says Yoshitaka Hori, vice president of Hori Production. "There is no perfect real person. Some can sing well but are not good looking. Others are good looking but can't sing. Kyoko is both."

Kyoko is also a computer graphic image. That, however, has not seemed to stop her. It did give her creators pause, though. Hori says creation of a computer figure this real is not easy.

"We're not to totally satisfied with her yet," he says. "It took us half a year just to make her smile." 

But, since her launch, Kyoko has brought smiles to many. She's not only a singer; she also hosts a late night radio program -- with a mysterious real-life woman giving voice to the virtual star.


Kyoko's picture is appearing on more than her home page, too. Advertisers are getting into the act, and she's being used to boost magazine sales.

But Kyoko's not the only computer-generated character attracting the attention of Japanese cursors. Shiori Fujisaki, a featured character in a popular video game, has make the jump to real life -- sort of. Wide-eyed Shiori, with human helper, has taken her bits and bytes on the road, proving popular with a certain segment of Japan's youth.

Some real entertainers are also starting to dance their way into the computer age. Pop idol Namie Amuro is one example: staking a claim to digital reality with an extensive home page.

But from whichever side of the reality divide they approach it, Hori says there is one constant.

"We can play games, but virtual idols are merely a substitute for real people," he says. "The virtual idols will never replace humans."

© 1997 Cable News Network, Inc.