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Opinion

Love in virtual reality

With the advancement of virtual reality and companies being able to provide the experience, should governments allow this to go further?

Paolo Capino

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A mother’s love for her children is said to be immeasurable. But how far would one mother go to treasure the memory of a loved one? A story from South Korea has thrown the world into a frenzy after an MBC documentary showed one mother who, after losing one of her four daughters to a rare disease in 2016, was able to meet her again through virtual reality.

The emotional episode showed the mother wearing a VR device and “visiting” her deceased daughter. The two had a long conversation and spent time in a park and appeared to celebrate the child’s birthday.

The intrinsic details of the daughter seemed so lifelike for the mother that she was overwhelmed. Even the voice seem to have captured the experience which both would have shared in the past.

The touching moments also included several attempts to physically touch the daughter, but the technology was limited to sound and visuals.

The flower that was given by the daughter to the mother was authentically experienced as a real flower was placed in her hand. The show ended with the mother-daughter having another talk as the child was already preparing to sleep.

Because the language was in Korean, I wouldn’t know what the Mother was saying but I assumed she was saying her goodbye to her daughter who later on transformed into a butterfly.

Researching online on how they made this possible showed that recreating the likeness of the child took almost a year. This included her body, face and voice. The test of effectivity would have been confirmed as the mother’s interaction can be only described as real.

This begged the question though for ethics. With the advancement of virtual reality and companies being able to provide the experience, should governments allow this to go further?

I remember watching the movie AI (Artificial Intelligence) where in the last scene the boy (who was a robot and believed himself to be human) was given one last opportunity to talk to his human mother who abandoned him in a forest.

The mother was already dead given that the Earth was flooded. But the aliens who rescued him was impressed by how much love the boy had in his memory for his mother. The interaction was also quick but meaningful.

This scene was replicated in real life as both the mother and the boy had a party and was able to talk artificially. The South Korean program used a model and had a motion capture system much like what video game companies use to recreate a character.

The moral dilemma especially once this technology advances will be raised. Maybe international government agencies should create a body to impose ethical standards on how the living can interact with their departed loved ones.

There should be a limit and profit should not take precedence over the manipulation of a real person’s psyche and emotional well-being.

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