Holographic pop star Maya Kodes will perform “live” at the Ferst Center for the Arts on the Georgia Tech campus on Friday, March 29, at 8 p.m. How can a hologram perform live? Read on.

The fanciful backstory on Maya Kodes is that she was created during a computer glitch and somehow her program came to exist in our universe.  She’s a modern day digital Pinocchio, an Avatar wanting to grow up to be a real pop star one day.

People don’t quite seem to know how to react to singing holograms. There are high-profile holograms that seem to be all about bringing the ghosts of past performers back to life. You have Roy Orbison, opera star Maria Callas, there’s even an Amy Winehouse tour this year. Then there’s Hatsune Miku, an anime pop star that performs in front of sold out crowds in Japan. These are all great technical achievements but in the end seem to be just another type of sophisticated recorded playback.

That’s the big difference with Maya, there’s actually a whole team behind bringing Maya to life in real time. This falls to her creator Yves St-Gelais and the Neweb Labs team from Montreal. There’s a dancer off stage that controls the singer’s movements via motion capture technology, a separate vocalist sings live and uses facial motion capture for Maya’s singing. There’s a whole support team on all the computers. It seems it takes an awful lot to make all this happen. Being a virtual pop singer does have benefits though, she’s not limited to a standard stage performance, she can seemingly create her own fingertip fireworks and light effects, she can react to the music by shape shifting, changing her skin, or shimmering into a matrix-style waterfall of digital code. She can even interact with real people. These are all things that really makes Maya stand out, she’s being brought to you in a computer-augmented virtual “live” performance by a whole team working behind the scenes.

Maya is a unique creation not based on any particular person. But what does an ideal pop singer look like, sound like? How can they best relate to an audience? Maya  seems to raise all these questions and it will be interesting to see how she will continue to evolve. We pick pop singers and music we can identify with, how does that work with a hologram? She’s already in her third iteration, the ultimate Eliza Doolittle where she can be reprogrammed, dressed up, refined. So how Maya develops in the end will say a lot about us, the audience.

The songs seem entertaining with a light pop sensibility, but they also talk about living your best life in a digital world. Which in today’s society seems oddly relevant and relatable. Maya’s creators seem to be firmly grounded in animation and story telling. So the end game here seems not so much SkyNet conspiracy, but all about relating to and entertaining an audience. It will be interesting to see how this continues to develop amid the growing confluence of various technologies.  Will Maya one day be able to cut the puppet strings? Have her own AI, demand creative control, be able to write her own songs, have her own pop star diva moments?

Some have said that Maya foreshadows the future of entertainment. We’ll have to see. It should be very interesting to see though just where digital performers are right now. To see just how well the magic and illusion works, see what the potential is. After the concert, they’ll pull back the curtain for a show-and-tell to demonstrate just what it takes to bring a Maya Kodes performance to life.