Nothing says “love” quite like donning a VR headset to explore a virtual forest while someone else leads your physical body through busy Utrecht, Netherlands.
While Outdoor VR’s “cyborg dating” doesn’t actually involve any cyborgs, the project does ambitiously inject technology into the dating experience. The company’s software can make recommendations about what you should do or say to your partner; it also grants you the ability to exchange gifts and will even tell you how your date is going. If you want to kick the romantic aura up a notch, switch to night mode for some more tender vibes.
Cyborg dating was born out of a collaboration between researcher Sander Veenhof and game designer Rosa Frabsnap. Here’s how Veenhof describes the game’s conception:
I had been exploring the possibilities of augmented reality with a special interest in AR that has the potential to transform public spaces. It made me think of creating VR by doing what I had been doing with augmented reality—combining the real and the virtual realm and having the physical world augment the VR experience. Wearing a VR device outdoors can be dangerous so instead of moving towards more hardware, I looked into the opposite direction—human guidance. I decided to turn the outdoor VR experience into an interactive experience for two people and that’s when I approached Rosa to help further develop the interaction and narrative.
Participants wear Google Cardboard for their virtual reality displays, rather than the much fancier and more expensive Oculus Rift. Cardboard is a simple, pared down frame designed to work with a conventional smartphone. It’s also cordless and lightweight, making it perfectly handy for a romantic stroll through both a fake forest and a real city.
For now, Outdoor VR’s software is only available to visitors of the Impakt Festival, but the creators are looking to demo it elsewhere in the future.
Illustration by Max Fleishman