When I started thinking seriously about all the amazing things VR could offer us, bringing back the dead was one of the many things I looked forward to.
I never knew my grandmother, she died before I was born but made such a huge impact on everyone around her that I’ve always felt her presence, not literally but in her children, my family members, my upbringing.
After surviving the hell of a WW2 Japanese concentration camp she was an amazing mum to her 9 children but died way too young.
I always missed not having her around, not having met her is one of the biggest regrets of my life.
And one day I hope to meet her in VR.
I don’t need to interact with her, I don’t want to talk to her, it would be impossible as we don’t have her voice recorded anywhere and I’d just know that anything she’d say would be made up by someone else.
But the idea of simply being in the same room as a NPC that looks exactly like her, just sitting there by the radio, drinking a cup of tea, reading a book, would mean the world to me.
I’d just sit there and cry my eyes out.
But when someone dies today, we generally have a lot more resources to work with to recreate these people.
Of most people today we have countless hours of video recordings, we have sound, movements, mannerisms and thousands of images in stead of just one album of black and white pictures.
That means that the people we recreate in VR will be a lot more realistic and of course we’re still just at the beginning of this.
Soon it will be relatively easy to bring a dead person back to life, something that today takes specialists studios countless hours, huge computers and a big pile of (usually) Hollywood money.
And even then it is somehow still not quite right.
Technology will move forward, the computer generated people will become more and more realistic and the time, money, effort and amount of expertise it takes to achieve a realistic and convincing result is going to be less and less.
We can have long and deep debates about how we should use this technology and if it is good or perhaps bad for how we deal with mourning those we lose.
Because as interesting it is to dance with Marlene Dietrich in 1920s Berlin, have a chat with Leonardo Da Vinci in his studio or how lovely it would be to visit Alexander the Great, most of us will probably think of someone a lot closer to them they’d want to meet.
Is it good that in stead of letting go, we get to hang out with our family members who died for as long and often as we want?
I guess we should leave this to the psychologists and philosophers, because quite frankly I couldn’t care less.
I want to meet my gran, I want one last chat with my best friend, I want to walk my dogs through the park again and I already know I want to talk to my parents after they’ve died.
Anyone suggesting I perhaps shouldn’t, will be ignored when the time comes.
For those of us who live in Second Life, this really isn’t anything new.
I bet people have been trying to recreate the dead in SL pretty much since the world was opened to the public.
But using a VR headset for it is quite something else.
Anyway, the website ‘Road to VR‘ wrote about a Korean documentary about this subject.
In the video a mother is reunited with her little daughter who recently died.
As you can perhaps imagine seeing this has turned me into a weeping wreck.
I don’t really have the qualifications to make a proper assessment on how healthy, ethical or proper this is, but from the video it appears to do the mother some good.
I especially like how the kid shows mum where she lives now.
Perhaps this leaves a kind of memory for mother, helping her to imagine her child living there and replacing the last memory that she had before, of the child in a hospital bed or even coffin.
But I’m pretty sure it is going to mess up her little sister, who is still alive but is there watching mum reunite with the dead big sister and who also had to be a stand-in for the people who created this VR experience.
Anyway, healthy or not, right or wrong, it is of course something sensitive we should be really careful with but I bet most people will react to this technology the way I do, not caring about anything but just wanting to try it already and miss that one person we can’t really do without.
Make sure you read the article on ‘Road to VR’ for the whole story and the technological background, you can find it by clicking here.