Tech by VICE

A 3D Hentai Camgirl Is Taking Over Chaturbate, and Human Models Are Worried

ProjektMelody says she's an AI embodiment of an anime cam model – and has amassed thousands of followers in just three days of streaming.

by Samantha Cole
11 February 2020, 10:00am

Screenshot via YouTube

This article originally appeared on VICE US.

A 3D anime woman with a black strap across her nipples is giving a lecture on YouTube about whether hentai is art or porn.

"I think there's a higher demand for the odd and the fantastical," she says. "With art, it's flexible, you're allowed to explore your sexuality. And with real titties? No offence, but it's bound to the cruel weight of science, gravity, and bones that only go one way."

ProjektMelody is a virtual avatar of a woman who claims to be the world's first hentai camgirl. When she's not on YouTube, she gives regular, live shows on the camming site Chaturbate, where she dances and fondles herself for tips. She's not real, but there's a real person in there somewhere, moving her arms and speaking into a microphone to any of her 14,300 followers currently in the live chat. She only started streaming three days ago.

On Chaturbate, her location is listed as "Virtual Little Tokyo," and under smoking and drinking preferences, "literally impossible." Her birthdate is listed as July 7, 2000, but more accurately, Melody came into the world in July 2019, when ProjektMelody joined Twitter.

In the last three days since her first stream, Melody has gone from 700 Twitter followers to more than 20,000. The "more rooms like this" tab on her Chaturbate page returns an error: "Sorry, we don't have any rooms similar to projektmelody yet." That's because other cam models are human. Her sudden rise in popularity has made some who aren't working behind a full-body avatar question what place an anime avatar has on the platform.

Cam model Lennox May has been doing live shows for three years, but has been in the adult industry for the last 10. She watched one of Melody's recent streams.

"From a technology standpoint I can't argue that the technology and creation of the character is definitely made by someone with talent," May told me. But she wonders if something like this belongs on its own designated platform for avatars, separate from the flesh-and-blood models.

"There's a huge gap in vulnerability, and what that means emotionally for [human] models versus Melody is also quite vast," May said. "A model has to keep up appearances when they have trolls in their room, or when put in an awkward situation with a customer who is being rude or asking for things that we do not feel comfortable doing."

An animated character doesn't have to smile and hide their emotions when they're in those situations—let alone set up or tear down their studios, or worry if someone will recognize them out in the real world or stalk them like a human cam model does.

When I messaged Melody's Twitter account, she told me—in character as an artificially-intelligent robot—that she was infected by a series of pornographic pop-up ads. "Once corrupted, I became obsessed with the lewd side on the internet," she said.

"I don't have a creator and I'm not puppeting a virtual avatar. What everyone sees is just me! I'm an artificial intelligence," Melody said.

Melody's designer, digitrevx, told me that Melody runs similarly to another popular virtual streamer, Kizuna Ai. Her appearance is rendered in real-time using Unity, a popular video game creation tool.

"Physics, speech, her eyes, eyebrows, all the way down to her fingers are real time," he said. "This gives her complete control to respond to her viewers."

Digitrevx is also the creator of a few other Japanese anime-style video personalities, known as "V-tubers," including Mirai Akari, Yomemi and Moemi, and others. Melody's design was inspired by a combination of Motoko Kusanagi from Ghost in the Shell, and the video game and anime series Hyperdimension Neptunia.

"V-tubers in general build quite the fan base but being a cam girl version really builds a strong following for her," he said. "She is very different and is doing things other V-tubers would never entertain the idea of I think."

Signing up for a cam site like Chaturbate requires models to sign personally-invasive usage agreements, including identity verification, where they have to upload a picture of their IDs and take a selfie with their IDs in hand. The platform is strict about this policy: If someone appears on your stream who isn't age and ID verified, you can have your ability to earn tokens revoked.

Melody told me she followed all of the required procedures for signing up to Chaturbate, and spoke directly to a support staffer there before streaming, to let them know what she was planning to do. Chaturbate did not immediately respond to Motherboard's request for comment.

"It makes me sad that [other models] don't want me there," Melody told me. "I don't agree with the argument that because I'm safer, and less likely to have stalkers, that I shouldn't be allowed to stream...I don't think camming is defined by the risk models take in their personal lives, I think it's defined by the content that they produce, and the community they build around themselves. I think it's a dangerous precedent to tell future cam models that you are somehow less deserving of being a model, unless you're putting yourself at risk."

"Overall from a scientific and technology perspective I think that ProjektMelody is genius, but that it needs to be presented to the world in a way that is still fair to everyone else," May said.

But some models question how Melody slipped through, when verifying an anime avatar is clearly new ground for Chaturbate. Given Melody's runaway success, it's raised some suspicions.

"There are 1000's of models who try all day spending hours more than the average work week to get to the front page of a cam site," May said. "Some never do."

Chaturbate did not respond to a request for comment.

Hentai and 3D-animated avatars are wildly popular adult genres on tube sites and in dedicated anime and hentai communities. As Motherboard previously reported, people are constantly pushing the limits of realism and interactivity in these generated avatars, to the point of making them to look like women who exist in real life. ProjektMelody continues that trajectory of increasingly interactive fantasies minus the human face.

It is also another instance of new technology upsetting our existing understanding of a certain type of labor. Some companies are trying to replace human pizza makers with robots, and at least in one instance, a 3D anime avatar is doing the work of a camgirl.

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