The two were able to touch, play and hold conversations. Picture: YouTube.com
The two were able to touch, play and hold conversations. Picture: YouTube.com

Moving or macabre? Virtual reality show 'reunites' mom with dead daughter

By MAIL FOREIGN SERVICE Time of article published Feb 12, 2020

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In a park, a mother lovingly places her hands on the shoulders of her seven-year-old daughter.

It could be a normal family scene, except that the woman is wearing a virtual reality headset and gloves – and the little girl has been dead for three years.

The mother, Jang Ji-sung, was taking part in a controversial South Korean TV documentary that used technology to "reunite" her with an avatar of her daughter Nayeon.

The two were able to touch, play and hold conversations. Mrs Jang tearfully stroked the image and said: "Oh my pretty, I have missed you." Nayeon reassured her mother that she was no longer in pain.

"Meeting You", aired on Thursday, divided opinion with some finding the programme moving and others saying it was macabre, while experts raised ethical concerns.

Its makers, Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation, said the idea was to give grieving relatives a chance to say farewell to a loved one. Nayeon died aged seven in late 2016 from a rare immune disorder.

The documentary team took eight months to build her avatar using family photographs and videos to ensure her features and voice were accurate. Mother-of-four Mrs Jang wore a headset that let her believe she was having a birthday party with Nayeon in the park they used to visit.

She held hands with the avatar, tears streaming down her face. Her husband and two of her children, watching in the TV studio, were also shown crying.

Mrs Jang said she did the show to help others who have lost a relative. However, ethicist Dr Blay Whitby of the University of Sussex said it raised worrying issues. "We just don’t know the psychological effects are of being 'reunited' with someone in this way," he said.

Technology expert Dr Sarah Jones, of De Montfort University in Leicester, said: "Just because it is possible to use technology to virtually bring people back to life to meet with those grieving, it doesn’t mean we should."

Daily Mail

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