Emerging Technologies

Virtual Reality 'reunites' a mother and deceased daughter

An employee works on avirtual reality modeling  at the office of Vive Studios in Seoul, South Korea Tech technology science chemistry biology physics electricity electric power battery charge positive negative lab laboratory scientist fourth industrial revolution volt voltage change progress advancement power new revolution augmented reality virtual reality ar vr simulation south korea Korean mother daughter parent family

Those who made the simulation focused on remembering Na-yeon instead of recreating her. Image: REUTERS/Heo Ran

Minwoo Park
Reporter, Reuters
Hyonhee Shin
Journalist, Reuters
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  • Virtual reality reunited a mother with her seven-year-old-daughter, who died from blood-related diseases three years ago.
  • The emotional reunion was captured in a documentary.
  • The people behind the project wanted to show that technology can be used to comfort.

Wearing virtual reality goggles, Jang Ji-sung burst into tears as her seven-year-old daughter, Na-yeon, emerged from behind piles of wood in a neighbourhood park, her playground until she died from blood-related diseases three years ago.

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“Mom, where have you been? Have you been thinking of me?” Na-yeon said, prompting a choked-up Jang to reply: “Always.”

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Jang tried to reach closer, only to see her hands penetrate the virtual figure wearing her daughter’s favourite violet dress and carrying a pink purse featuring Elsa and Anna, sisters from Disney’s animated musical “Frozen”.

“I really want to touch you just once,” Jang said, her voice and hands quivering. “I really missed you.”

The tearful reunion, aired last week in a documentary by South Korean broadcaster MBC, was made possible by virtual reality (VR) technology which embodied Na-yeon in a digital avatar modelled upon a child actor using photos and memories from her mother.

Lee Hyun-suk, director of Vive Studios, tries out a VR simulator at the company in Seoul, South Korea An employee works on avirtual reality modeling  at the office of Vive Studios in Seoul, South Korea Tech technology science chemistry biology physics electricity electric power battery charge positive negative lab laboratory scientist fourth industrial revolution volt voltage change progress advancement power new revolution augmented reality virtual reality ar vr simulation south korea Korean mother daughter parent family
The virtual reality technology made the reunion possible. Image: REUTERS/Heo Ran

The documentary, entitled “Meeting You”, struck a chord with many South Koreans while highlighting the growing scope of the new technology beyond gaming.

“People would often think that technology is something that’s cold. We decided to participate to see if technology can comfort and warm your heart when it is used for people,” said Lee Hyun-suk, director of the Seoul-based VIVE Studios, who led the project.

Lee Hyun-suk, director of Vive Studios, reacts during an interview with Reuters An employee works on avirtual reality modeling  at the office of Vive Studios in Seoul, South Korea Tech technology science chemistry biology physics electricity electric power battery charge positive negative lab laboratory scientist fourth industrial revolution volt voltage change progress advancement power new revolution augmented reality virtual reality ar vr simulation south korea Korean mother daughter parent family
Lee Hyun-suk, director of Vive Studios. Image: REUTERS/Heo Ran

Kim Jong-woo, who produced the documentary, said he focused on “remembering” Na-yeon instead of recreating her, so Jang and her family would feel as if her daughter had lived on.

For Jang, her last wish was to tell Na-yeon she loved her and has never forgotten her.

“It’s heartbreaking that her time has stopped at the age of 7,” Jang said, with a faint smile. “But I was so happy to see her that way.”

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Related topics:
Emerging TechnologiesFourth Industrial Revolution
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