Ai Shinozaki, one of Japan’s hardest-working models, extends some VR hospitality.
Ai Shinozaki could probably make a comfortable living doing nothing more than smiling for the camera, seeing as how she covers the three Bs of the Japanese modeling world: baby-faced, busty, and (frequently) bikini-clad. Nevertheless, the 23-year-old Tokyo native has branched out into a variety of other fields, including singing and acting.
She’s also become something of a darling of virtual reality content creators. Of course, Shinozaki is the darling of a lot of men in Japan, which is why one team of developers put together a VR program where you can hang out with her in her apartment.
Dubbed VR Valentine, the program was shown off at the recent Hack Day event in Tokyo’s Akihabara electronics district. “Hack Day” is actually a bit of a misnomer, as the programming showcase took place over the February 13/14 weekend, but hey, the presenters’ specialty is technology, not linguistics.
We sent our Japanese-language reporter Seiji on the virtual date with Shinozaki. He found the booth right inside the venue’s entrance, where the staff ushered him into a curtained off area with a desk, PC, and VR headset.
To be honest, the layout didn’t instill a sense of confidence. After all, Seiji was supposed to be about to enter the private living quarters of a professional swimsuit model, but the VR trial area was as Spartan as it could be. Would it have killed the organizers to put a candle or something on the desk?
But then again, in short order Seiji slipped on the VR headset, which is outfitted with a helmet and headphones to block out any outside sounds or visuals.
As the program started, Seiji found himself seated on a couch in a tastefully decorated apartment. In front of him was a TV playing a video of Shinozaki frolicking on the beach. This would actually be kind of a strange thing for Shinozaki to have playing in her own home, but seeing as how she’s easy on the eyes, we doubt most users complain about this small gap in the scenario’s logic.
Besides, the virtual TV wasn’t going to be the center of attention for long. Seiji could hear the sound of a door opening to his right, and in stepped Shinozaki, who greeted him with a cheerful voice and warm smile.
Since this is supposed to be Shinozaki’s home, her attire is less revealing than what she wears in many of her photo shoots. Still, Seiji had no complaints about her ensemble of a fluffy sweater and shorts.
While the software doesn’t allow for a two-way conversation, Shinozaki chats animatedly throughout the program.
She displays a variety of emotions, ranging from bubbly to peeved, but overall Shinozaki seemed smitten enough with Seiji to give him a box of Valentine’s Day chocolate and a kiss.
The whole thing is so immersive that Seiji completely forgot that he was sitting in an almost depressingly plain booth at a programming exhibition. He also didn’t seem to notice that his hands had been turned to plastic in the virtual world, but we can’t blame him for having his eyes elsewhere while experiencing the program in real time.
▼ And in the developers’ defense, dressing the user’s in-program representation in a flannel shirt, the unofficial uniform of the lonely Japanese computer geek, was probably a pretty smart call.
So in the end, how did Seiji rate the program?
“If there was a home version of this, I wouldn’t need a real girlfriend!”
After all, he’s already figured out a way to get Valentine’s Day chocolate without one.
[ Read in Japanese ]