Japan's new virtual influencer, Liam Nikuro, is a computer-generated thirst trap

PHOTO: 1sec Inc

Meet Liam Nikuro, the cute new Instagram star whose face is made up of more bytes than blood.

Liam actually looks pretty convincing if you don’t look too closely. Although his head is a product of 3D computer graphics and animation, his body is real (as to whose body it is, we don’t know). Liam is also notably Japan’s first male virtual celebrity.

The hapa hottie’s backstory claims that his folks are an American dad and Japanese mom. Liam’s real parent, however, is 1sec Inc, which prides itself on “Virtual Human planning and production," almost like something out of The Matrix. The venture company’s sparse website offers little more information other than a focus on next-generation culture.

Liam isn’t just a pretty face — like other virtual stars, he’s also got the beginnings of a personality; the multimedia model/entertainer has highlighted “Opinions” and a Q&A on his Instagram Stories, which he does mostly in Japanese. Recently, Liam even tweeted about letting people potentially hear his voice.

Speaking to Japan Today, Liam’s producer, Genie, said: “Liam may be virtual, but we are aiming to create content that is just as fascinating and cool as what his real counterparts have to offer, and to entertain people all over the planet."

Virtual influencers aren’t new — the first was probably Instagram star Lil Miquela, but the trend goes way back to the days of virtual Japanese pop star Hatsune Miku, and even Gorillaz.

They’re often used to push events, brands, and products — African virtual star Shudu appeared in a Fenty Beauty Instagram post, while Lil Miquela was spotted chilling with bands at Coachella. The versatile nature of this new breed of celebs means that one can “attend” an event on opposite sides of the planet without dealing with meatspace logistics. In 2018, TechCrunch reported that Lil Miquela’s parent company, Brud, was worth at least US$125 million.

This new frontier of hybrid cyber-celebrity — mixing a real body with cutting-edge tech to create a new “person” — raises interesting questions about whether the aforementioned human gets any credit, and what kind of compensation they get for the use of their body. Science fiction has long explored the possibility of rentable or interchangeable bodies (hello, Altered Carbon), which opens the floor to examining just how disposable we are as throwaway flesh-sacks.

In the words of horror director John Carpenter: Long live the new flesh.

alexisong@asiaone.com