I just watched Biggie Smalls perform “live” in the metaverse
The team created a database of ‘micro-expression reference materials’, analyzed ‘pore-level resolution imaging’ and tracked the elasticity of subcutaneous layers to understand how facial skin Smalls was moving, Scott explains. These minute changes in facial expression were crucial to creating as real an avatar as possible.
All that research paid off. “I have seen the avatar throughout the building process…and it looks very real to me. I see my son’s characteristics in the details,” his mother, Voletta Wallace, said via email. “The avatar turned out to be everything I hoped for.” Scott says when the team unveiled Smalls’ avatar to Wallace, she said, “That’s my Christopher.”
“There wasn’t a dry eye in the room,” Scott recalls. “At that point, we were past all the technical accomplishments we were looking for and were in the realm of emotionally real simulations.”
Part of the reason Smalls was a prime candidate for a VR gig was that he was a star without live recorded performances. “Biggie lived through two albums and never toured,” says Elliot Osagie, founder of Willingie, a digital media company that collaborated on the event. The virtual performance was an opportunity for fans to finally see their hero live and introduce a new generation to a legendary rapper.
This is where Wallace comes in, who is also the executor of his estate (estimated at around $160 million). While it was an emotional project, there’s no doubt it was also a business opportunity: Scott says the estate of Wallace and his son were looking for “opportunities to bring him back for reconnect with his fans and create a new fan base”. That last part is particularly important: Smalls’ peers are members of Gen X who are only getting older. Putting Smalls in the metaverse, an arena dominated by younger generations, could broaden his audience. Wallace confirms it: “I envision more concerts, videos of his music, commercials, animations, films and more opportunities in the metaverse.”
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