Last week, a Korean TV special called Meeting You aired which focused on a family’s loss of their seven year-old daughter. And in an unsettling finale, the program attempted to reunite the girl with her mother using a virtual reality recreation, complete with audio.
You can see it below. Not only was the girl fully replicated in 3D, able to move around and interact, but the mother was given touch-sensitive gloves to accompany her VR headset, and she was able to walk around a limited greenscreen set.
Within the confines of this moment, these fleeting few minutes, I have no idea if this was an ultimately positive experience for this mother, and so don’t want to speak for her personal feelings or try to imagine what she felt interacting like this. Being able to see her daughter one last time might help her in her grieving process. Having some code pretend to be a living thing that she loved might only add to the trauma. Only time, and research, will tell.
This is one of those things that I thought we had another 5-10 years to get ready for, maybe form some kind of means of reacting or responding to. The uncanny valley is something we still struggle with when it comes simply to entertainment, we’re definitely not equipped to be tackling the same issues with loved ones.
Were this something that could have been done behind closed doors then maybe we could (and now will have to) argue the psychological and ethical merits of such an exercise. But putting it on TV, and then the internet, for the world to see? Whatever the long-term moral and ethical questions are that we’re going to have to face, this is extremely fucked up.