Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Virtual Reality, Virtual Hatsune

Technophile shut-ins, rejoice. The era of shimmery, for-your-eyes-only virtual girlfriends has arrived, says this video, uploaded to You Tube by user Alsionesvx. The film showcases an augmented reality system that allows users to project the pixilated Japanese pop star Hatsune Miku into their day-to-day lives. Using video goggles and an Xtion Pro motion sensor, Alsionesvx can take Hatsune, a wide-eyed, pigtail-wearing wraith who, significantly, has no mouth (and somewhat less significantly, has no nose), to the park. It’s sort of romantic. Then he, um, plunks her in his kitchen and paws at her tie: less romantic.
So begins the article at slate.com panning what actually turns out to be a really cool piece of technology. OK, so maybe virtual girlfriends aren't your thing (unless you're into porn...then admit it, they're virtual and they're girls), but suspend judgment for a minute and consider.

Let's say you can wear a device over your eyes that allows you (but only you) see a simulated image of anime character Hatsune Miku accompanying you wherever you go. This isn't a static image and in fact, looking at the video demo, it's really impressive. You can see "her" walking toward you making eye contact. When you look away, the image doesn't suddenly move keeping her in your line of sight. If you "saw" her walking toward you on a sidewalk, you can look away and not see her, then look back and she's still walking on the sidewalk getting closer to you, just as if she were an actual moving object in the world around you.

If you can see her at a distance and a real object gets in the way, she is hidden from view by that object (lets say a passerby or a tree) and then comes into view again when the object is no longer blocking your line of sight...just as if she were a real part of your environment. It's kind of impressive.

Even though she's virtual and you can't actually touch her (you can't even see her without the hardware), when you reach out and pat her on the head for example, she will "react" by showing signs of pleasure (no, not that kind of pleasure). She wears a tie and you can touch and move the tie (the demo doesn't involve touching or doing anything to any other part of her clothing). You can actually smack her on the head (as shown in the video) and she reacts as if she's afraid or in pain (which is the creepy part).

Why would you want this?

I don't think I would. I'd have to live in my head a lot more than I actually do and really, what's the point? I suppose if the software were developed to its logical conclusion, then it would make an incredible masturbation aid, but do guys really need that much help? There's already a plethora of porn on the web including Japanese hentai, so a cute, vaguely interactive anime girl isn't as necessary as you might imagine.

It does move the concept of virtual reality and the Star Trek holodeck one step closer to actuality (if the words "actuality" and "virtual" can be used together like this). If you combined the digital Hatsune Miku with something like Google's Project Glass, the possibilities are mind boggling. Toss the iPhone into the mix and then imagine Siri is "real". What about being able to see and interact with Tony Stark's "Jarvis"? How would 3D gaming be enhanced if the virtual person were an opponent?

You may not want a virtual anime girlfriend, but projecting the technology forward, there are a lot of applications besides the obvious "porn star" aspects.

What do you think? Is this creepy or cool?

Oh, here's the video:

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