The novel coronavirus pandemic is providing an opportunity for people to discover ways in which they can practice physical distancing while bridging social distance, and VR offers a means to do so.

The popular VR social application VRChat has seen a noticeable increase in activity, showing a 48% gain in average monthly users between February and May.

But is VRChat just a special case? Has the "COVID-19 shock" resulted in a significant upswing in virtual character usage and the population of Vtubers?

The answer would seem to be a definite "yes," based on the groundbreaking report jointly authored by the Swiss cultural anthropologist and Vtuber researcher Ludmila Bredikhina and the self-professed "world's first" independent Vtuber and HTC VIVE brand ambassador Nem.


Based on a survey of 81 people from around the world who use virtual characters in both public and private settings, the authors came to the following conclusions:

  • The number of people who began using virtual characters (avatars) after COVID-19 increased by 24.7%
  • The number of people who started broadcasting as Vtubers (Virtual YouTubers) after COVID-19 increased by 38.9%
  • The main purpose people mentioned was education and broadcasting (for fun), but not business due to company rules, etc..
  • Restrictions on activities (self-isolation, event cancellations, campus closings, etc.) resulting from COVID-19 have encouraged people to engage in communication (broadcasting, VRChat, virtual SNS, etc.) and educational activities through virtual characters.

You can view the report in slide form below:

This report continues the fascinating work which Ludmila Bredikhina (or "Mila"), has been conducting in virtual identity construction, which you can read more about in her paper entitled "Designing identity in VTuber Era" published in the proceedings of the Virtual Reality International Conference held April 22-24, 2020.

This won't be the first time she has collaborated with Nem (AKA バーチャル美少女ねむ "Virtual Girl Nem"). She was invited to present her ongoing research on identity and Vtubers on Nem's YouTube channel in April, and she translated the lyrics of Nem's recent music video "Kokoro Cosplay":

Tonight, she will be back on Nem's YouTube channel for a special talk show where they'll present the results of their recent findings.

Tonight (6/13): Nem x Mila talk show

If you're interested in learning more about Nema and Mila's report on COVID19 and Vtubers, and would like to participate in the discussion, they will be having a live talk show tonight at 22:00 (JST):

By - Ben K.