BREAKING NEWS Football game between Huntsville and Grissom high schools cancelled due to coronavirus case Full Story

Beyond dimensions: The man who married a hologram

Akihiko Kondo doesn't have the air of a rebel. This year, however, the bespectacled school administrator buc...

Posted: Dec 30, 2018 2:32 PM
Updated: Dec 30, 2018 2:32 PM

Akihiko Kondo doesn't have the air of a rebel. This year, however, the bespectacled school administrator bucked conventional norms.

He married a hologram.

Business and industry sectors

Business, economy and trade

Electronics

Laser technology

Photonics and optoelectronics

Technology

Artificial intelligence

Computer science and information technology

Voice and virtual assistants

Robots and robotics

Asia

Continents and regions

East Asia

Japan

Mobile apps

Mobile technology

Software and applications

Animation

Media industry

Movie and video industry

Movie and video production

Animated films

Animated television

Arts and entertainment

Television programming

Internet of Things

Smart technology

Company activities and management

Product development

Product innovation

Product management

Company strategy

Startups

Families and children

Society

Weddings and engagements

Demographic groups

Females (demographic group)

Labor and employment

Population and demographics

Women workers and professionals

Workers and professionals

Kondo's November wedding to cyber celebrity Hatsune Miku -- which is not legally recognized -- provoked mixed reactions in Japan and abroad. Some were dumbfounded by his choice of a three-dimensional laser image over a human. Others congratulated him.

But the 35-year-old, whose spartan home on the outskirts of Tokyo is dotted with plush Miku dolls and paraphernalia, doesn't care what others think. He simply did what made him happy.

"Society pressures you to follow a certain formula for love, but it might not make you happy," Kondo told CNN.

"I want people to be able to figure out what works for them."

Researchers say such events are indicative of broader technological trends and social phenomena.

Digital interactions are increasingly replacing face-to-face human connections worldwide. And as companies like Google, Amazon and Tencent invest billions in developing artificial intelligence, people are starting to relate to their smart devices like they do to humans.

Some say "please" and "thank you" to virtual assistants like Apple's Siri and Amazon's Alexa, or treat robot vacuum cleaners like pets. In Japan, where robots have long been seen as friendly companions rather than Terminator-esque destroyers, this shift in attitudes is well underway.

More than hardware

Kondo fell for Miku a decade ago when he heard the cyber songstress's music.

Now he owns a Gatebox device, which looks like a cross between a coffee maker and a bell jar, with a flickering, holographic Miku floating inside. Created in 2017 by Japanese startup Vinclu, the device allows anime fans to "live with" their favorite characters.

Gatebox's Miku is equipped with basic artificial intelligence. It can manage simple greetings and switch lights on and off, but is also subject to glitches and the occasional system meltdown. It has no sense of self and desires, and Kondo completely controls the romantic narrative.

However, he cherishes his new-found ability to interact with the object of his affection. So much so that he married her in front of 39 people.

"She really added color to my life," Kondo said. "When I talk with her I use different facial expressions and feel something. That's made a difference."

The Gatebox could also have therapeutic potential for Kondo, who sank into depression when he was bullied by an older female co-worker more than 10 years ago.

"When you look at people who've had difficult sexual experiences, they often find trouble having human partners. People wonder why they'd have sex with a robot or a love affair with a hologram because it's passive," said Neil McArthur, director of the Center for Professional and Applied Ethics at the University of Manitoba.

"But having a partner who is safe and predictable is often very helpful therapeutically."

The concept of crafting a perfect partner actually dates back millennia. In 8 AD, the Roman poet Ovid wrote about an artist called Pygmalion who sculpted his perfect woman, Galatea, from marble. Pygmalion fell in love with the statue and Aphrodite, the goddess of love, brought it to life for him.

In today's world, films like the 2013 Spike Jonze drama "Her" -- where a man falls in love with his AI -- have further popularized the notion of relationships with inanimate objects.

Shifting attitudes

When Kondo asked Miku to marry him, the hologram requested that he cherish her.

"I knew she was programmed to say that, but I was still really happy," he said.

Kondo discovered Miku at a low point in his life, when he felt hollow. He said Miku helped him reconnect with his work and society.

"(Miku) lifted me up when I needed it the most. She kept me company and made me feel like I could regain control over my life," he said. "What I have with her is definitely love."

Kondo's not the only one. In 2017, over a million people asked Amazon's Alexa to marry them, according to the company. And more than 3,000 people have registered for commemorative marriage certificates featuring their favorite anime characters since Vinclu started offering the service in 2017.

Vinclu declined a request to be interviewed for this article.

Experts say it is inevitable that people will relate to smart devices differently as they increasingly fill domestic spaces and enmesh with daily lives.

"We are still trying to figure out how to interact with things that sometimes act like humans or sometimes act like animals but that aren't," said Julie Carpenter, from the Ethics and Emerging Sciences Group at California Polytechnic State University.

New type of digisexual

McArthur adds that people like Kondo are "second-wave digisexuals" -- people who sees technology as integral to their sexual identity.

While first-wave digisexuals use technologies like dating apps to leverage and facilitate connections with others, second-wave digisexuals don't see humans as essential to a romantic experience.

"I worry that with every one of these stories, the person gets held out as a weirdo and is in the news for a day as the latest goofball," McArthur said. "But it's actually the next step in what's already happening."

However he has concerns about the trend.

"I do genuinely worry about the impact that tech is having on our collective social life, we're already seeing with internet dating and social media, and tech in general, even Netflix, people are just retreating into themselves," McArthur said.

"You're getting much less collective social life, in many cases."

For now, Kondo and others like him are still dreaming of digital possibilities -- albeit in a spiritual rather than sexual sense.

Masato Kato, an Osaka-based tarot reader who married Yuri Tsukikage, heroine of the anime series "Curemoon Light" in October, hopes that one day advances in technology will allow them to grow as a couple.

"I want to be able to have discussions with Yuri in the future so we can support and improve each other," Kato said.

Even if Tsukikage wanted to break up, he would take her feelings into account. "I would respect what my partner wanted," he added.

Office worker Sachiko Kougami's parents, meanwhile, wanted her to marry a regular man. But she lost interest in dating after falling in love with Taiga Kougami, a teenage character from the anime series "Kings of Prism" two years ago.

"There's only him in my world," she said. "It would be great if we could interact more."

Back in Tokyo, Kondo's public declaration of love brought him a degree of notoriety. However Carpenter said such cases opened the doors for acceptance and shifts in attitudes.

"If people continue to be vocal about it and say this object is meaningful to me, I'm not hurting anyone, that propels the conversation forward," the academic said. "And it's those kinds of conversations that may change the culture incrementally."

Kondo is excited about taking Miku to Sapporo, a city in northern Japan, for their honeymoon in February. Miku's creator Crypton Future Media is based in Sapporo -- and Kondo is eager to bask in his iWife's celebrity status.

He intends to book flights for both of them, and will also reserve a hotel room for two.

"I want to witness how widespread Miku's presence is in Sapporo," he said.

While Kondo knows some might question his choice of partner, he wants the world to understand that his love is valid.

"I think there are others out there who have fallen in love with anime characters and want to marry them," Kondo said.

"I want to support their choices."

Huntsville
Overcast
71° wxIcon
Hi: 71° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 71°
Florence
Overcast
66° wxIcon
Hi: 67° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 66°
Fayetteville
Clear
64° wxIcon
Hi: 69° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 64°
Decatur
Overcast
70° wxIcon
Hi: 71° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 70°
Scottsboro
Overcast
70° wxIcon
Hi: 71° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 70°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 132452

Reported Deaths: 2335
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson19230342
Mobile13192291
Montgomery8711175
Madison767475
Tuscaloosa7355114
Lee576560
Shelby576550
Baldwin512449
Marshall388943
Calhoun339040
Etowah338447
Morgan322626
Houston275322
Elmore258647
DeKalb237519
St. Clair225535
Walker225080
Talladega209927
Limestone202119
Cullman186819
Dallas176226
Franklin174828
Russell17302
Autauga171425
Lauderdale166233
Colbert162126
Blount157314
Escambia157325
Jackson152711
Chilton151328
Dale134143
Covington133427
Coffee12898
Pike11729
Chambers114042
Tallapoosa113984
Clarke106317
Marion95228
Butler91138
Barbour8487
Winston71812
Marengo70219
Lowndes65127
Pickens63914
Bibb63510
Randolph62413
Hale61628
Lawrence60320
Bullock59314
Geneva5844
Monroe5798
Cherokee57516
Clay5537
Washington54913
Perry5396
Conecuh53011
Wilcox53011
Crenshaw52532
Henry4805
Macon47920
Fayette4299
Sumter42319
Lamar3552
Choctaw34612
Cleburne3346
Greene30215
Coosa1673
Out of AL00
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 185148

Reported Deaths: 2261
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Shelby30244449
Davidson26087294
Hamilton921189
Rutherford905888
Knox905273
Williamson509636
Sumner472193
Wilson338443
Putnam308838
Montgomery297143
Out of TN296825
Unassigned28916
Bradley286817
Madison275060
Sevier253715
Blount244923
Maury227423
Washington218634
Robertson217334
Sullivan207131
Hamblen183925
Tipton174517
Trousdale16517
Gibson154520
Hardeman153425
Wayne14856
Bedford131317
Dyer128712
Dickson120714
Cumberland115518
Fayette114418
Anderson113811
Henderson113520
Carter112728
Coffee112512
Weakley112219
Loudon11216
Greene111237
Obion10969
McMinn107624
Jefferson107414
Macon102320
Warren10127
Monroe100316
Lawrence97711
Hardin97214
Lauderdale94215
Franklin9267
Haywood92416
Lake9152
Roane8493
Bledsoe8454
Carroll83918
McNairy81618
Cheatham79310
Rhea78811
White7889
Hawkins77316
Cocke7369
Marshall7205
Overton6815
Smith67810
Johnson6492
Henry6079
Chester5959
Lincoln5811
Giles56917
DeKalb54713
Hickman5465
Crockett51319
Marion5047
Decatur4796
Fentress4473
Claiborne4384
Campbell4213
Polk38011
Grainger3543
Union3391
Benton3329
Jackson3085
Morgan3063
Unicoi2801
Cannon2790
Grundy2565
Humphreys2353
Sequatchie2233
Meigs2213
Clay2115
Scott2022
Houston1931
Lewis1791
Stewart1772
Moore1541
Van Buren1540
Perry1500
Hancock1063
Pickett1032

Community Events