Finding Lost Loved Ones In The Metaverse

It was my sister’s fault, not mine.

I was too young to rent A Nightmare On Elm Street – Part 2 when I was in grade school. But my dad was passive, and my sister was persistent. The next two hours formed how I viewed entertainment for the rest of my days.

I started to think that if entertainment wasn’t scary, it wasn’t worth my time.

Okay—first I had to get over the trauma of seeing a movie like that in grade school. But when I got older, I rented the movie Pet Sematary—the original one from the early 80s. Something about that movie really put me over the edge.

For those of you who grew up watching wholesome cartoons and educational television, you may not know that Pet Sematary deals with a man who attempts to bring his loved one back from the dead. (I’d say “spoiler alert”; however, you’ve literally had almost four decades to read the book or watch the movie. So at this point I have no pity for you.)

As Stephen King stories go, this one spins into sinister macabre and terror rather quickly. But at the heart of the story is a deeply sad premise and one that we will explore in all seriousness here:

What if I’m not ready to let go of a loved one?

This world has a 100% mortality rate. (I just Googled it. It’s confirmed.) None of us are getting off this spinning rock alive. However, speculating what happens to us after we die is usually the subject of religious and spiritual discussion.

But not any longer it appears.

Because the metaverse has a unique ability to bring realness to virtual reality, death doesn’t have to be the end of our interactions with loved ones.

“I See Dead People… at my Wedding.”

Many of us would agree that a Harry Potter-themed wedding sounds kinda cool. Imagine how much cooler it would be if the wedding took place virtually in the metaverse. But how much cooler would it be if the bride’s deceased father were there to greet people virtually as they logged on to the wedding?

Okay, was that crossing the line?

Well, Dinesh Sivakumar Padmavathi and his fiancée Janaganandhin didn’t think so when they planned their metaverse wedding in February of 2022. And neither did their followers on Twitter.

As it turned out, in addition to the 2,000 people who committed to attending the wedding digitally, another 5,000 jumped onto the “maybe” list as Dinesh planned the first event of its kind in India.

A tweet revealed a small snippet of the ceremony.

Gone Too Soon… But Here Right Now

Most of us expect to lose our parents. But the untimely death of a child is beyond comprehension. Of the loss, parents report being willing to do anything for just one more moment with the child—one more day to share with that child again.

And in South Korea, virtual reality gave that moment to one mother.

Jang Ji-sung lost her daughter to blood cancer in 2016. But in February of 2020, through VR, she was able to have a special moment with her. It was broadcast on television, and a YouTube clip of the moment received millions of views. Please be advised of the extreme emotional nature of the video before watching it.

A Project Folks are Dying to get Involved with… Literally

Believe it or not, some tech leaders have loftier goals than simply bringing a very real-looking avatar of a departed loved one onto the blockchain.

Somnium Space endeavors to create more than a digital representative of the loved one. The reason for this has to do with its founder, Artur Sychov. You see, Sychov lost his father to cancer some years back. This led Sychov to imagine what life would be like if he could enable his father to have a conversation with his children at some point.

Thus, the drive to create the “live forever” mode on Somnium Space was born. Sychov doesn’t just want a realistic memory of the loved one—he’s looking for AI-powered interaction at the heart of his project.

The Vice article referenced above is definitely worth a look if you want to dive deeper. In summary, Sychov wants these artificially created avatars to have more agency than just physical likeness.

A very extension of life lost, if you will.

You May Not be into This… but Maybe it Gives You Hope

Yes. The metaverse opens a whole other realm of posthumous possibility, but where do you stand on the use of virtual reality to help you deal with the pain of loss here in the physical world?

Does the idea of dealing with the digital deceased comfort or repulse you?

I don’t think there is a right answer.

—————–

Whew! If the darker tone of this article made you mad, you can take out your rage by reading about NFTs and the UFC. It packs a punch, just like a pro-fighter.

And since we all experience loss in some way, if you’re looking for support, it may be a good idea to look at some NFTs that exist to support mental health causes.

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