Cyborg Dating is the latest in augmented reality social experiments
Cyborg Dating isn’t actually a date with a cyborg (though it may be difficult to tell the difference these days), but it is a potentially fun and thought-provoking activity. Visitors of Utrecht’s Impakt Festival in the Netherlands recently had the opportunity to test the new technology.
In the activity, one partner wears Google Cardboard and takes a walk through a virtual forest, armed with a general direction of where they need to go. The other partner helps guide them by hand so that they do not stumble into obstacles or city traffic. Along the way, both participants are informed about how the date is going. They are given suggestions of what to say, the ability to give gifts and can share a picnic basket. There’s even an opportunity to switch to night time mode and encourage the date to end romantically.
The augmented experience is a collaboration between researcher Sander Veenhof and game designer Rosa Frabsnap. Veenhof explains how the concept was born:
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.
One field where digital technology is really making an interesting impact is dating. Veenhof and Frabsnap quickly agreed that a walk through the forest lent itself to a dating theme and continued to work with that idea. Just like a date, both participants are equally responsible for making the date successful.
While Google Cardboard may not provide the same type of immersive experience we’re seeing with the Oculus Rift, it does have it’s advantages, namely being cable-free and allowing for more movement. Veenhof believes these type of experiences, rather than stationary ones, are what the future holds:
Much of our behavior will be triggered or facilitated by smart wearables, and as a result of that, our inter-human relations too. Cyborg Dating was the closest we could get to letting people experience the future because despite being a fictional story, the interaction between the two participants and the choices they had to make were all about whether to follow their own human instincts or follow the instructions given by their devices. It allows them to consider the positive or negative effects digital enhancement has on our lives.
Veenhof reports that although the activity was a challenge, most couples seemed to genuinely enjoy the experience. The duo hopes to build on its insights by refining and testing Cyborg Dating at future events around the world.