The woman that I’ve been seeing, Samantha, she’s an operating system

Why are people spending hours on their smartphone and social media? It is because they feel lonely. According to a study, lonely people spend more time on Facebook than non-lonely people. People who are shy and lonely tend to turn to Facebook to spend time and find interaction with their “Facebook friends”. However finding also suggests that Facebook does not actually help reducing loneliness that it cannot replace real conversation and activities with friends. So what’s the next step? Would people give up Facebook and try to hang out with friends? No! Rather than that, I believe that people would invent a better technology to fulfil their loneliness.

Nowadays it is very common to seek a partner from internet. We have seen plenty of people who found their partners from dating websites or social media. But have you ever thought about dating a virtual girlfriend? Dating simulation games may sound ridiculous in Australia, but it actually is a huge thing in Japan. Just few years ago, there was almost no market for dating sims outside of Japan, but in recent years they are getting popular in other countries like China and America. Dating sims are simulation games that involved romantic elements. The main goal of dating sims is to date with a virtual chosen girl / guy, in order to get married, or even achieve an eternal love in the game. Dating sims are designed for fulfilling the desire of romance, love or even sex. In some cases, players have formed such strong attachments; in Japan, a man has even married his virtual girlfriend!

In South Korea, there is an IPhone application that enables users to interact with the voice of a virtual girlfriend called Mina. The application allows users to interact with Mina, and receive love messages and video calls from her every day. Users can receive thousands of messages e.g. “are u sleeping?”, “time for breakfast”, or “sweet dreams” from the app. Kim Yoon-Kak, head of Nabix, explained: “I’ve developed this application to console people for their loneliness.”

Virtual girlfriend technology in Japan has even gone further than your imagination. By the virtual reality headset Oculus Rift technology, Japanese developers have given the users an even more realistic experience. One of the developers Negipoyoshi has created a simulated application that allows you to sit with a 3D virtual girlfriend and share a single drink together. This technology was created with the position-tracking function, after putting the headgear on, you would see a tiny café table and a cup of drink for sharing with your virtual girlfriend. And when you drink from the actual straw on your table, the virtual girl would also go in for the virtual drink. The virtual girl is also programmed to smile at you and show that the drink is delicious.

With the position-tracking function, the Oculus Rift even allows you to kiss the animated girl! The device would track your head movement, and let the virtual girl’s face move towards yours. Of course you could only kiss on the gummy replica, but what you see from the device, would be the image of kissing the virtual girl’s 3D shy face, her beautiful cheek and even her lips. And if you do it too strong, you would even hit her teeth and annoy her! The Oculus Rift also provides several types of interaction, including “sleeping next to her” and “touching her body”!

Dating sims, the IPhone app and the Oculus Rift are certainly wonderful technologies for those who are lonely and find lack of attention in reality. However at this moment I still feel uncomfortable and creepy when I heard that there are people playing dating sims and kissing on the gummy replica, and honestly look down on those people because they are absolutely social failure who cannot get a real partner. It is because there’s clearly a difference between reality and simulation e.g. you can’t really reach out and touch things in virtual reality.

In the Japanese animation “Sword Art Online”, with the Nerve Gear, a virtual reality helmet that stimulates the user’s five senses via their brain, players can totally control their in-game characters with their minds, and interact with other players and virtual characters realistically. Furthermore, people can fly, have sex or kill a dragon in the game, they can do whatever they want. That’s why in the animation, some of the people would spend the whole day in the virtual game and occasionally leave the game just for having meal.

I believe that one day, the developers can make these technologies much better and realistic, and people would lock themselves in their room with their virtual reality helmet just like people in Sword Art Online. Because it totally fits the human need. Sometimes a real life partner could be very challenging to deal with, while a virtual girlfriend is always smiling and ready to serve you, it’s understandable that the virtual relationship will become increasingly appealing and practical. When everything you could possibly desire is available in the virtual world, what is the point for coming back to real life?

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