The line between the real world and virtual world has become increasingly blurred in recent years. Senior citizens have been using life simulators to combat loneliness, and virtual partners have been replacing real ones at an astonishingly rapid rate in some countries, but no example has been as heart-wrenching and emotional as a Korean mother and daughter’s reunion made possible by VR.
The story of mother Jang Ji-sing and her deceased daughter Nayeon takes centerstage in the TV documentary “I Met You”, which aired on South Korean television on February 6.
At the age of 7, Nayeon passed away in 2016 due to an incurable disease – leaving behind her grief-stricken mother, father, and three sisters. After hearing about the tragedy, a VR production company offered to recreate Nayeon using actual photographs, video, and audio recordings to perfectly emulate her appearance, movements, and voice.
Jang accepted the offer, saying she not only wanted one last chance to see her daughter again, but also to bring comfort to anyone who has lost a child or other loved one.
As she wore the VR goggles for the first time, she was surrounded by a photo-realistic replicate of a park filled with memories of Nayeon’s life. Soon after arriving, the virtual Nayeon ran to greet her mother.
“I missed you!” Nayeon chirped.
“I missed you too.” Jang replied, bursting into tears.
“Where have you been, Mommy? Did you think about me?”
“I do all the time.”
Jang reached out to touch her daughter as her husband and other children watched from off-stage with tears streaming down their cheeks.
Soon Nayeon lead her mother to a table where they celebrated what would have been her tenth birthday with virtual cake, candles, and presents. Nayeon’s birthday wish was for her mother to be happy.
“Three years later, I now think I should love her more than miss her and feel sick so that I can be confident when I meet her later. I hope many people will remember Nayeon after watching the show,” Jang wrote on her blog, where she also described the virtual world as a “real paradise”.
Virtual reunions like this are not commonplace now, but following the airing of the documentary they could become a viable way for family members to reunite with the deceased in the future.