“Meeting You” is the name of a documentary from the South Korean TV network MBC that has traveled around the world for telling the story of a family that lost their seven-year-old daughter.
However, the strange thing about this story is that the girl’s mother was able to “reunite” with her in virtual reality.
In 2016, doctors diagnosed little Nayeon with cancer. A short time later, the girl passed away. As the documentary explains, her mother, Jang Ji-sung, wishes to meet with her daughter to “say goodbye to her in another way.“
The girl, in addition to being fully replicated in 3D, was able to move and interact. Thus, Nayeon was able to “contact” her mother again.
Vive Studios worked on the development of the project. They worked on it for eight months. The technique used is photogrammetry,¿. It is a specific technique to define the shape, dimensions, and position of the object using different photographs.
The study used as a model the little sister of the deceased girl, whose resemblance is significant, which was placed in a study with countless SLR cameras that captured her physique from all angles, which generated an exact model.
To receive more vividness to the model, experts used photos of the little girl to imitate facial expressions. They captured gestures using sensors and implementing a voice recognition system and a basic AI to, at least, allow them to have a conversation. The girl’s responses were created in interviews with family members and videos of the girl.
The mother also has sensitive gloves that allow emulating the sensation of friction when touching the 3D model. In fact, in a moment of the video you can see how the mother passes her hand through the girl’s hair, she moves and reacts.
“Mom, where have you been? Have you thought about me?
With virtual reality glasses on, Jang Ji-sung brought into tears when her daughter appears behind stacked woods in a park where she used to play.
“Mom, where have you been? Have you thought about me? Nayeon says, prompting her mother’s broken response: “Always.”
Jang tries to touch her, but she can only see how her hands go through the virtual figure that is wearing her daughter’s favorite violet dress.
“I want to play only once,” Jang says, with her voice and hands shaking. “I’ve missed you so much”.
“People often think that technology is a cold thing. We decided to participate to detect if technology can comfort and warm the heart when used for people, “said Lee Hyun-suk, director of Vive Studios in Seoul, who led the project.
Kim Jong-woo, who discovered the documentary, said he focused on “remembering” Nayeon so that Jang and her family felt as if their daughter had remained alive.
For Jang, her last wish was to tell her daughter that she loved her and that she has never forgotten her.
“It’s heartbreaking that her time has stopped at the age of 7,” Jang said, with a slight smile. “But it made me so happy to see her that way.“
Changing the face of death
The project aims to put a “good face” on a taboo subject such as death, and help those who suffer the loss of their loved ones to “comfort” in such a situation.
In the 10-minute video, the mother has the opportunity to spend a kind of “day” with the girl. Together, they start celebrating the girl’s birthday. Besides, they play and the mother takes her to bed.
During the “celebration” of her birthday, the little girl asks as her wish that her mother never cry again.
“I met Nayeon, who gave me a smile for a short period of time; It is a very happy moment. I think I had the dream I always wanted, ”said the woman.
The YouTube post received a lot of views in a few days and many comments. A good number of users who cannot avoid getting excited when watching the clip; however, there were those who titled the video as disturbing, and somehow masochistic, saying that this type of encounter, instead of healing wounds, could be counterproductive and even traumatic for those who suffered the loss of a loved one.
And you, what do you think about this new technology?