Live streaming has become increasingly popular, with most streamers presenting their real-life appearance. However, Virtual YouTubers (VTubers), virtual 2D or 3D avatars that are voiced by humans, are emerging as live streamers and attracting a growing viewership in East Asia. Although prior research has found that many viewers seek real-life interpersonal interactions with real-person streamers, it is currently unknown what makes VTuber live streams engaging or how they are perceived differently than real-person streamers. We conducted an interview study to understand how viewers engage with VTubers and perceive the identities of the voice actors behind the avatars (i.e., Nakanohito). The data revealed that Virtual avatars bring unique performative opportunities which result in different viewer expectations and interpretations of VTuber behavior. Viewers intentionally upheld the disembodiment of VTuber avatars from their voice actors. We uncover the nuances in viewer perceptions and attitudes and further discuss the implications of VTuber practices to the understanding of live streaming in general.
The ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (https://chi2021.acm.org/)