When I saw Ana for the first time PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds After Krafton’s attempt to put a face to his artificial “virtual human” technology, I was disappointed to see that this supposed Web 3.0 innovation was really just another pretty pale girl. It’s airbrushed, but still tangible. She bites her tongue and looks at you. And I’m afraid it only exists to be looked at and not much more.
Krafton published his first pictures of Ana on 15th of June. We got two sharp close-ups of a vaguely East Asian woman with all the expected egirl accoutrements, dyed hair and adventurous pierced ears. Ana made with Unreal Engine has one lightning bold tattooed on her finger. It’s clearly visible when she puts her pinky to her lips to stare at you with clear, amorous intent.
Krafton introduced its “Virtual Human” technology in February with technical demonstration Depicted are “motion capture based vivid movements, pupil movements made possible by rigging technique, colorful facial expressions and even the soft and baby hairs on the skin”. The publisher announced its intention to use carefully crafted virtual humans not only in its games but also in its esports demonstrations, hoping to create more virtual influencers and singers “Robot” Instagrammer Miquela.
That’s influencers and singers, plural, so Ana is probably just the beginning of what I can only imagine as a circus troupe PUBG robot babies. Robot babes are particularly hot right now because we haven’t grown at all since watching them the film she in 2013. Before that, we got used to the idea of robots being malleable, emotionless women. In other words, “perfect” women.
As early as 2011, respectful, female-coded virtual assistants like Siri and Alexa began living in our devices, reinforcing the popular image of a loving, supportive electronic woman most recently shaped by forward-thinking Y2K media—think Cortana in gloriole in 2001 or the virtual pop star in Disney’s 2004 film pixel perfect. In 2016, a Hong Kong man spent $50,000 to build such a robot looked like Scarlett Johanssonwho happens to be speaking the voice of the virtual assistant in the film she. We really didn’t learn anything from this film.
We also haven’t learned much from real artificial intelligence experts, who over the years have emphasized that female-coded robots are alienating human female tech users and reward harmful stereotypes about women to be submissive and devoted no matter what abuse they suffer. In 2019, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) published a publication They argue that “Siri’s ‘feminine’ subservience – and the subservience expressed by so many other digital assistants projected as young women – provides a striking example of gender bias encoded in technology products, in the technology sector are ubiquitous and manifest in the education of digital skills.” But tech companies like Krafton continue to create within these gender biases, sewing them tighter and deeper into our societal fabric.
Partly that’s because Gaming is contradictory but addictive Relationship to sex and the evil eye of the ruthless, always judgmental male gaze. Mainstream developers have occasionally attempted to go beyond the archetypal video game woman and create more realistic depictions (to Reddit’s big disappointment), but character designs of women in video games in general remain recursive: buxom and flexible. i love hugs my inner bimbo as much as anyone else, but when women with high heels and tiny waists are the only representation we have in video games, it reduces an entire gender into a repressive stereotype.
But even more so than for lithe women, tech and video game companies are horny about the ill-defined terms “Web 3.0” and “metaverse.” Both are intended to evoke the idea of an empowered online individual, but in practice are usually just ways to rehabilitate and commercialize outdated virtues (prioritizing labor productivity, individual property) for a fresh audience. Perhaps to protect against rapidly crumbling blockchain “innovations.” like pay-to-win video gamesnew Web3 advocates are clinging to reassuring images of technological advances, which include those ethereal, buxom digital women who might be capable of a roundhouse kick Mortal Kombat, but would never nag you about your stupid NFT investment. Criticism is not in their source code.
Krafton invoked the right buzzwords for his Ana news, writing in a press release that “ANA is designed to appeal to a global audience and help build KRAFTON’s Web 3.0 ecosystem,” which will “drive the interest and popularity of Gen Z arouse” is driven by music and a foray into influencer dominance.
The company declined to answer one of my questions (“Do you think Ana’s design will alienate female gamers? Is Krafton doing anything to stop Ana from relying on stereotypes?” “Can you describe how Ana’s design and skills might particularly appeal to Gen Z ?”) and told me in an email that “more announcements/details will follow in the coming weeks!”
Ideally, in the coming weeks, we’ll be lucky enough to get another closeup of Ana, giving the camera meaningful bedroom eyes, except with a little more forehead. In the name of my generation, we can’t get enough of a poreless forehead.
Sorry, I don’t want to be entirely pessimistic about Krafton’s intentions. It’s possible that Ana holds a message under her neck indicating that she is not another iteration of male developers conquering technology by molding it into her preferred future – a thin, pale, obedient woman. Incidentally, anyone who also wants to sing with “advanced voice synthesis” and become a social media phenomenon tends to confuse this with the only two career paths open to a beautiful woman.
OK, maybe I want to be pessimistic. It’s eternally frustrating to be a woman hooked on video games and the internet, only to have her potential routinely diluted down to the same boring tropes a straight man relies on to get away. To make AI women who represent the same qualities as Victorians found in the aloof angel in the house is not “Web 3.0”, but swamp standard, traditionally sexist. An AI-powered voice can be represented by any image, blob, or creature, but the best Krafton can come up with is a woman, which I’ve seen in ads and on Thinspiration Tumblr for as long as I can go online.
But I should put up with it, right? That’s how we live, regurgitating the same images and rewriting the same opinions that no one listens to and yet find time to disagree with. I just don’t want Krafton to act like this is the future. Sometimes I feel like we’ve been stuck in history for as long as we’ve recorded it.