Now you can become a cute virtual avatar with just the power of your voice

For some, Japan is seen as the land of impressive advances in technology. While robots may have been hit with a bit of a setback recently, virtual avatars continue to rise in popularity.

Arguably the most famous virtual avatar is vocaloid Hatsune Miku, who has gained such fame that she was even appointed a spokesperson to help combat the coronavirus. Virtual avatars have also enjoyed success on YouTube as well, with Kizuna Ai‘s channel currently at almost 3 million subscribers, and even Netflix has their own VTuber.

Even back in 2018, the team here at SoraNews24 had a go at becoming virtual anime girls, but at the time the software seemed to be limited to the visual element only, meaning if you didn’t have a cute voice, it would make for uncomfortable viewing.

But with new technology from Japanese company DeNA, literally anyone can become a cute virtual avatar.

DeNA’s new creation is a blue haired twin-tail avatar called Nina Nanakoe. Nina’s official birthday (or “day she was created”) is January 14, making her a Capricorn. She is 147 centimeters tall and weighs 65kg.

But why is Nina making waves? For the general public, most virtual avatars have relied solely on text input to be able to talk, but Nina can talk by converting spoken words. As you load the page, Nina introduces herself.

▼ “Nice to meet you. My name is Nina Nanakoe. I’ll convert your voice using A.I. technology, so let me hear you talk.”

Try it out for yourself here :

Press “rec” to speak to Nina for about ten seconds. Give her a moment to convert your speech and she’ll repeat it back to you. Nina will also change her pose or expression based on the emotion of the inputted speech, something once considered an incredibly difficult thing to do. Once she’s done, she’ll ask you to rate her performance underneath, as she is still under development.

At the moment it looks like Nina can only process Japanese. If you try to speak to her in English, she will just mumble a bunch of gibberish in response. But it might be a good opportunity to practice your Japanese; if Nina can understand what you’re saying, your pronunciation might be pretty decent!

Of course Japanese netizens had a lot to say about Nina Nanakoe and what she might mean for the future of virtual avatar technology:

“With this I can make my debut as a beautiful VTuber!”

“There’s so much you can do with this kind of technology! I’m excited.”

“I hope in the future we can be a bit more diverse with our virtual avatars, instead of just all pretty girls.”

“It’s amazing what you can do with just a browser these days.”

“Nina’s intonation is kind of strange, but I’m looking forward to her improving in the future.”

Many netizens commented on Nina’s subtly strange intonation, and as Nina is still under development this is to be expected. But DeNA hopes this will eventually lead to a future where anyone can create their own online avatar with a voice and look that is wholly unique to them.