It’s been one day since the family of the late queen of Tejano revealed plans for a touring Selena hologram and they’re already on the defensive.
The Quintanilla family is moving forward with plans to work with Acrovirt, a Nevada-based tech company, to develop a singing, dancing, digital rendering of the singer, who was killed 20 years ago by the president of her fan club.
“By no means is this something that’s creepy or weird,” Suzette Quintanilla told Billboard. “We think it’s something amazing. A lot of the new fans that did not get to experience what Selena was about hopefully will be able to get a sense of her with this new technology that’s going to be coming out.”
Acrovirt is planning to send “Selena The One” on tour in 2018 — but that’s not all. Selena’s family announced, through her Facebook page that the hologram “will release new songs and videos” and “will collaborate with current hit artists.”
Oh boy. Someone should ask Drake how this worked when he tried to pull off a similar “collaboration” with Aaliyah. Hint: not well.
There’s no doubt that Selena is still extremely popular. A spokeswoman for Pandora said the service saw a 700 percent increase in traffic on the 20th anniversary of her death last week. But live performances are tricky. When holograms have been deployed previously, in the cases of Tupac and Michael Jackson, they were for specific, limited events — Coachella and the Billboard music awards.
Even Selena’s dedicated fans are suspicious of the introduction of a hologram, or hologram-like recreation. Here’s a sampling of the reaction to the announcement from her Facebook page:
“I loved her work, however, I find this a bit creepy.”
“If it wasn’t so odd/creepy, it would be awesome (technology-wise), but, I say let her legacy remain classic… meaning… leave her alone, people!”
“I don’t think i’m okay with this. She built her own legacy, let her just rest in peace.”
“This is just sick.”
“I feel having the hologram perform is one thing, but making new music is something I’m not too okay with. I feel this is the perfect opportunity for Selena fans who didn’t get a chance to see her perform when she was alive to get a sense of how it was like, but new music and videos I feel is unacceptable. In true honest nothing is better than the real Selena herself.”
Acrovirt is insisting that their “Digitized Human Essence,” which they are developing in partnership with the University of California at San Diego, isn’t a hologram but something else, though they don’t offer much in the way of specifics:
This technology is an advanced technology that does not have the limitations of past technologies such as holograms or holographs but is revolutionary. Acrovirt is working in collaboration with Selena’s immediate family and cutting-edge scientists to enable new productions for her many fans.
Though close-as-possible realism always seems to be the goal of these projects, there’s a point at which it becomes more of a liability than an asset, something robotics researchers dubbed the “uncanny valley.” And it’s the uncanny valley that usually triggers the “creepy” descriptor. Will Selena’s likeness stop to address the crowd between songs? Will she take “water breaks?” The Quintanillas reportedly ended a previous collaboration with the company responsible for the Tupac hologram because they deemed the image “not real enough and almost cartoon-ish.”
The plan isn’t fully operational yet, though. Acrovirt is hoping to raise $500,000 in an Indiegogo campaign to get the project off the ground.
“People don’t realize how fast technology is moving,” Suzette told Billboard. “This is something that we’re building for another two to three years, so when 2018 comes around they’ll be like, ‘Oh, OK, we get it.'”