Real Life of a virtual intern at GREE VR Studio Laboratory
Hi, my name is Liudmila Bredikhina. I’m a virtual intern at GREE VR Studio Lab. I’m a Master’s Degree student at Geneva University. I’m currently majoring in Asian Studies, and I research Japanese Virtual Beings, such as VTubers. My work focuses on VTubers and virtual characters that enable people to perform and express their virtual identity. My research is conducted through a gender approach, questioning how human interactions, self-expression, and kinship relations are re-negotiated in a more than human world. This will be my final article for GREE VR Studio Laboratory.
I’ve decided to focus on Japanese VTubers for my Master’s Degree mémoire and future Ph.D. research. Since the beginning of this year (2020), I have been participating in different personal research activities surrounding the virtual world of VTubers. You can see in figure 1 my first appearance at VTech Challenge, organized by GREE VR Studio Lab. I’ve decided to work at GREE VR Studio Lab because it was an excellent opportunity for acquiring hands-on experience in the VTubers industry. Moreover, conducting my ethnographic studies at the beginning of my VTuber research at the GREE VR Studio Lab was essential to support future research decisions. This internship also had other practical implications, such as meeting with potential future research collaborators and employers.
Main takeaways and future perspectives
This internship allowed me to acquire insider knowledge about organizing VTuber related events and understanding the meaning of VTubers related technologies despite some misunderstandings. Apart from the difficulties mentioned in the previous section, this internship helped me improve my technical academic writing skills, provided me with fieldwork for my MA, insider knowledge about virtual being production, and virtual event organization (Fig3). After my internship at GREE VR Studio Lab, I have a better understanding of VTuber related technologies and the future of VTuber production. I also learned new skills that could come in handy in my future research or work, which made my GREE VR Studio Lab experience valuable for my personal growth. All of which is not only extremely valuable for my Masters in Asian Studies but also my future. My internship at GREE VR Studio Lab could open me the doors to future collaborations with Japanese developers in the VR entertainment sector, as I came into contact with different professionals in that sector. I’ve also acquired a series of new practical skills, such as virtual conference organization, report, scriptwriting, collaborating with people from different countries, and writing about technology.
After my MA, I want to move to Japan and get my Ph.D. at a Japanese University and continue writing academic publications about Japanese virtual live-entertainment technologies. After this internship, I’ve realized how necessary it is to acquire a better Japanese language proficiency level to avoid misunderstandings due to the language barrier. Moreover, since I’m majoring in anthropology, it is crucial to have a better Japanese language level to conduct ethnographic fieldwork. Going forward, I will continue trying to collaborate with virtual events as staff to obtain better knowledge about virtual live-entertainment production.
To conclude, while there were some misunderstandings, overall, the internship was a fantastic opportunity. I learned new skills and a better understanding of VTubers than before I came to work for GREE VR Studio Lab. Working at GREE VR Studio Lab opened me the door to potential collaborations with other virtual live-entertainment specialists and a better understanding of VTuber phenomena, which I research.
Internship: differences and difficulties.
From June 2020 until October 2020, I worked as a virtual intern at GREE VR Studio Lab. My work mostly focused on translating videos from Japanese to English, creating videos (digests, teasers, presentations), scriptwriting, co-organizing conferences, or acting as a facilitator, reporting, and technical papers writing. I wrote the following reports: “EMTECH: “Research and Development for Avatar-Driven Virtual Society in VR4.0 Era,” “VRSionUp!7 — Hubs Study — Meetup event in Mozilla Hubs,” and “IEEEVR2020: “Avatar Driven VR Society Trends in Japan.” I also had the opportunity to participate in international and Japanese conferences about CG graphics and real-time entertainment. Attending those conferences allowed me to gather ethnographic information about other companies that engage in VTuber-like activities (Fig2) or develop VTuber-like technologies.
I had daily meetings with our director and the rest of the intern team. While it was interesting, my Japanese level wasn’t good enough to understand technical words about haptic technology or coding, making it sometimes difficult to follow the discussions. There were times when I had to wake up at 3, 4, 5, or 6 am because of the time zone difference. I wouldn’t call it a difficulty since I was well aware that such was bound to happen, but it is something that anyone who wishes to work for a Japanese company from the EU should take into consideration.
One thing that struck me in particular, which was very different from my previous working experience, is that it was considered acceptable to take a day or even more to learn a new skill. I learned how to use Blender (a little bit), introduced myself to HTML5 and CSS code, and developed my skills as a scriptwriter. However, while some skills were interesting to learn, as they were directly related to my profession as a researcher, others, for example, HTML5 and CSS, were not skills that a graphic/type designer (my previous profession), or a researcher, should know because design, research, and coding are distinct professions. Moreover, my goal is to become a researcher. In Swiss, only learning new skills directly related to one’s profession are considered valuable.
Some cushioning in the collaboration
I’m sad that I’m not in Japan and that I’m not continuing my internship in Japan. However, at least I still got to try some Japanese food. Not only virtually, during VRSionUp meetups in Mozilla Hubs, but also physically. Dr. Akihiko Shirai sent me the HapBeat for the VibeShare remote demo, the package was filled with ramens, rice seasonings, and books as package cushioning. I’ve finished all the rice seasonings, but I’m waiting for the cold Swiss winter weather to open the ramen packages and prepare a nice meal. This shows that even in the times of a global pandemic, we can exchange cultures.
From the Director, Akihiko SHIRAI:
My lab is a very rare institute for the entertainment industry, which focuses not only on technology but also human beings. Mila has a well experienced in design, but I believe she will have an opportunity building a big bridge into the different worlds like Asian-European-Western, and/or between technologist and artists in anthropology research. She is very tough and rough but good at sprinting. In our contract of research, it contained not only research and writings but also event organizing and performance in workshops or live entertainment events.
Polish writing in academic research and entertainment projects might be hard efforts in her internships. “God is in the details” but devils are also in the details. One small uncomfortable may break up everything in the experience. This is live entertainment. And she has done a lot of tasks and improvements, it was a Kaizen process.
Studying language means studying their spirits and life. She might have found seeds of Japanese in herself. The seeds are not only linguistic skills, and not only in a nationality, not only in a culture, she might have studied a native of researcher life with my colleagues. In the future, she will have a fruitful new job which is not named yet.
Once she comes here in Japan, we must have a delicious sushi dinner in physical Roppongi. I’m looking forward to discussing in Japanese, “Arigato gozaimashita”.