- 360° music video / Music Video / phantom sense / Virtual Bishōjo Nem / Virtual Girl Nem / VR
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Some of our grape Japan readers should be familiar with Virtual Girl Nem (バーチャル美少女ねむ Virtual Bishōjo Nem). We interviewed the self-professed world's first independent Vtuber last year, and have been following her activities as she continues to explore the possibilities of the virtual medium through live streams and creative projects such as music videos. As an official ambassador for HTC's VIVE VR headsets, she has been able to take advantage of some of the best VR equipment currently available to the general public and put it to use in pioneering ways. For example, her fourth music video, "Virtual Stargazer," which we introduced in April, was the world's first music video to fully leverage the VIVE Facial Tracker in order to convey a virtual performer's singing expressions in an appealing way.
Now, in her latest music video, Virtual Girl Nem has pushed the envelope in virtual entertainment once again, not only using full body tracking and facial tracking but also creating a 360° music video allowing users to experience a remarkable sense of immersion. The motivation for doing so comes from the theme, represented by the song and the music video's title: "Phantom Sense." For those who aren't familiar with the term, phantom sense happens for some VR users when their minds trick them into experiencing sensations beyond sight and sound such as smell, taste, and touch. Such sensations can also extend to things like ears, tails, horns, wings, etc. for avatars with parts that don't have equivalents in their users' bodies.
By using a smartphone to view the 360° music video, you can have a simulated VR experience even if you don't have VR equipment. According to the press release, the video is intended to convey the feeling of interacting with Nem, and "you can feel her breath, her warmth, the wind, temperature, and falling sensations." Nem hopes the experience can "awaken your phantom sense."
The video was made possible through a successful crowdfunding campaign on Campfire that achieved 268% of its target. In addition to releasing the music video, Nem is also organizing an "Utattemita" singing contest and is planning a 3D live performance of "Phantom Sense" in the near future.
English lyrics, translated by VR academic researcher Liudmila Bredikhina, are available in subtitles. If you're viewing with your smartphone, set YouTube to the highest video quality (since the default quality setting is poor).
"Phantom Sense" the music video
Although it has gained attention in recent years, phantom sense is a difficult concept to understand without actually experiencing it. Nem wanted to create a music video that allows viewers without VR equipment to enjoy a simulated experience of "touching someone via an avatar in a virtual world." In the music video, you can feel Nem's presence as you interact with her at a close distance, and experience various sensations like wind, temperature, and falling in the VR world together.
The images were not synthesized but were created by recognizing facial expressions with the VIVE Facial Tracker, eyes with the VIVE Pro EYE headset, and body motions with VIVE Trackers. This combination allowed her to move in real-time during the shooting, tracking 52 points on her face, 2 points on her eyes, and 10 points on her body. The video shoot was achieved with the help of collaborators in the next-generation social VR platform NEOS VR.
In addition to the YouTube, Nem is planning dedicated worlds where everyone can enjoy watching the "Phantom Sense" video and sing to the karaoke version. The Neos VR version has already been released and the VRChat version will be released soon.
"Phantom Sense" the song
A lyric contest was held in June to create lyrics that incorporate the real experiences and emotions of VR users. After a total of 28 submissions were received from VTubers, VR users, and others, on July 30, the lyrics of VSinger Higuma Kouta 日熊小歌 were selected as the Grand Prix winner. The final lyrics were based on her entry with a few elements also taken from other entries. The music was composed by virtual artist Kapruit.
To commemorate the completion of the music video, the song is available for free download here until September 18th.
3D model "Phantom Sense Nem"
In order to visually express the "phantom sense" that is normally invisible to the eye, a new 3D model of Virtual Girl Nem called "Phantom Sense Nem" was created, using a character design from manga artist Hotate Yūki ホタテユウキ.
The phantom sense is likened to a "new circuit on the avatar's skin." When Nem feels sensations, patterns like electronic circuits appear on her hands and feet, and when she touches another person, currents flow and sparks fly. Maybe she can awaken your phantom sense if she touches you?
You can view the model here at VRoid Hub. Moreover, thanks to VR Creator Onotchi, the model is now compatible with VRChat, and Avatar 3.0, allowing her to use the features you saw in the video. Maybe you'll have a chance to see her in VRChat!
"Phantom Sense": 'Utattemita' Singing Contest
To celebrate the completion of the music video, Virtual Girl Nem is having an 'Utattemita' singing contest through which she hopes the power of everyone's singing will awaken new sensibilities. All entries will be featured in Nem's livestream. The staff will present an award for excellence, and viewers will vote on their favorites too. In addition, the grand prize winner will have a chance to appear in the planned 3D live performance of "Phantom Sense."
Social VR Lifestyle Survey 2021
Currently, Nem and Swiss VTuber researcher Liudmila Bredikhina are conducting a large-scale survey to shed light on the various behavior patterns and attitudes towards VR social interactions of users around the world, including experiences with phantom sense. The deadline for submitting responses is September 11th, 2021. You can participate here (English available).
In order to realize Nem's ambition, twelve powerful "Phantom Meisters" from various fields collaborated on the project.