The prospect of creating a super-realistic metaverse version of your lover, that you could interact with after your partner has died, has been raised by a company rolling out a ‘Live Forever’ mode avatar creation service.
Somnium Space, the virtual reality (VR) metaverse space, is behind the Forever Mode scheme. The company says that the aim of its service is to create artificial intelligence (AI)-powered avatars so realistic, it will be impossible to differentiate their chat from human dialogue within ten minutes of conversing with them.
To create an avatar of yourself the service requires large amounts of personal data, including information about your voice and body movements. To help achieve this Somnium Space is working with Teslasuit (which has no link to the Tesla car company), the full body haptic suit which can be used for motion capture purposes.
Is creating a hyper-realistic metaverse avatar of your dead loved one an emotionally healthy goal?
A warning about a similar endeavour came in a 2013 episode of the TV show Black Mirror: Be Right Back, in which a woman buys an AI-equipped robot version of her late partner. We’ll avoid spoilers, but suffice to say the results were desperately sad, and suggested that AI might not be the best way to deal with grief.
That episode also addressed potential misuse of intimate personal data, an issue Somnium Space claims is already in-hand. The company says it won’t sell or share personal information with any outside parties, and that the data recording process Forever Mode gleams its information from can be turned on and off by the user.
Artur Sychov, CEO and founder of Somnium Space, told Motherboard that he was inspired to create Forever Mode when his father was diagnosed with an illness. Sychov feared that his children may not grow up with memories of their grandfather, so began thinking about ways they could potentially meet a version of him beyond his death.
Sychov said: “We can take this data and apply AI to it and recreate you as an avatar on your land parcel or inside your NFT world, and people will be able to come and talk to you.”
Somnium Space says it will roll out Live Forever mode in 2023. It is charging early adopters $50 a year for the service, saying that by charging money for it there is no onus on selling user data.
Sychov said that eventually the service may be able to create ‘improved’ avatar versions of deceased people, which doesn’t seem in keeping with its original purpose. “Let’s say you die or someone dies,” he said. “With the same amount of data we collected about you, with the progression of AI, we can recreate you better and better.”
Your lover creating an AI version of themselves to keep you company when they’re gone is an intriguing prospect – especially if metaverse-linked sex toy companies get involved one day.
But we can’t help wonder if Live Forever mode will help as many people cope with grief as it will people who become further anchored to it.