On Brandon Fugal’s latest project, and other strange tech

To give credit where credit is due, today’s millennials and Gen Z have 20th-century Utahns to thank for their monikers. Eddington’s research found that Brittany, Britney, Aubrie, Cody, and Marshall, among other names, were all born in the state before making it to the big-time.

Utah’s growing VTuber scene

Next up in the strange name game are the Vtubers, aka virtual YouTubers—but in their case, their monikers make a lot more sense. VTubers, who stream across Twitch, Insta, YouTube, and other social platforms, generally appear as virtual humanoids with their avatars designed via a computer graphics program. Some programs are sophisticated enough to capture microexpressions and eye movements, but all give the impression you’re engaging with someone in a Pixar-esque fantasy land. Roll your eyes all you want, but the top-performing VTubers are making bank.

At the top of Utah’s VTuber food chain is Syafire Star, an IRL cosplayer and game developer whose blue-haired, blue-eyed alter ego has amassed over 30,000 fans and 2 million views across her various channels. Syafire concentrates on posting 2D and 3D Vtubing design tutorials, her goal being to empower creators to make a living. She shares resources and more through The Eternal Gems, a Discord community.

Most of Utah’s Vtubers have taken the more traditional videogame live-streaming route. VTuber Frosty Froga self-described catgirl Neko (an IRL Utah software developer), plays and comments on Destiny 2 and Hollow Knight on Twitch.

On the more esoteric side of VTubing (yes, it gets weirder), we have the green-haired, AI-powered robot rap star FN Mecca—who has 10.1 million followers on TikTok—and his cyborg buddy, FNNxrmal. Both claim Salt Lake City as their hometown via the bios published by their technical overlords at Factory New music company. As well as IRL records, FN Meka has shilled NFTs (he sold a Lamborghini-styled porta-potty for $6,500) and has been a frontman for G Fuel, the “esports energy drink.” Keeping with the nonhuman vibe, I’ll wrap with Raputa Shobo-shi, a “65 million-year-old raptor gamer” who fights fires. Raputa’s IRL identity is under wraps, but their Utahraptor persona (which manifests as a muscular brunette man) lists gaming, good vibes, and cute girls as their favorite things. You’re welcome.

Answers to Two Truths and a Lie, the Utah Tech Edition:

The honeybee startup is the fake one. Colossal Biosciences, backed by Skinwalker Ranch’s Brandon Fugal and other investors, is working on the wooly mammoth project. Salt Lake City-based Peel Therapeutics is investigating using elephant nanoparticles on cancerous tumors.

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