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Love and Relationships in Virtual Reality: Is the VR Metaverse the Future of Dating?

Jasper Wannajaroen first met his partner through a group of mutual friends, as many of us do.
It took place exclusively in virtual reality instead of in a pub or dinner party setting.
As they began chatting online about common interests, such as Nintendo games, music production, and 3D animation, Jasper began to feel connected.
“We really liked each other…[and] There was a genuine connection,” Jasper said feed.

After interacting with each other through virtual avatars for several weeks, Aidan asked Jasper on a date.

Aidan (left) and Jasper (right) fell in love while interacting with each other in the form of virtual avatars. sauce: attached

“When he said yes, I was really surprised…I felt a spark and said, ‘Okay, I think this will actually work.’

Jasper, 18, and Aidan, 20, are currently dating. While the two occasionally meet in person, living 80km apart and juggling busy schedules means they spend much more time together in her VR.
They can date, hang out, and even kiss and cuddle in the virtual world.
“The whole relationship is the best,” said Jasper.

“I would never have met Aidan if it weren’t for everything in VR…that’s the strongest point of our relationship.”

How does dating in VR work?

Kate Clark, a VR researcher at Monash University, says romantic relationships have been happening in virtual spaces for as long as they have existed, including online games.
“World of Warcraft is a very famous example of people having a lot of romantic relationships. We had a wedding in World of Warcraft,” she said.
Virtual reality, sometimes called the “metaverse,” offers a much more immersive, three-dimensional dating experience.

Jasper and Aidan met on a social VR platform called VRChat, but there are many other social VR platforms such as Horizon Worlds operated by Meta, Sansar and NeosVR.

A young man in a hoodie puts his arm around another smiling young man in sunglasses and smiles at the camera

Jasper (left) and Aidan meet in person and are officially dating. sauce: attached

Thousands of worlds can be accessed through specialized equipment such as headsets and body trackers. It’s meant to mimic body language and trick the brain into thinking it’s in physical reality.

Simulate typical dating activities such as interacting with people in the form of avatars, taking a virtual museum tour, attending a Phoebe Bridgers concert, painting, going to a nightclub, etc. You can also
According to Jasper, a VR date with Aidan typically involves playing games, watching movies, or simply hanging out in a virtual world.

“You can play mini-golf in VR, you can make coffee in VR, there are so many things you can do,” he explained.

A dimly lit VR nightclub where virtual avatars dance in front of a DJ and his turntables

VR nightclubs are popular social venues, like Loner, which runs physical events in Melbourne. sauce: Youtube / virtual reality show

One well-known VR nightclub is Loner, which also hosts real-life club events in Melbourne. During the COVID-19 lockdown, Loner moved the show to his VRChat, where he gained a cult following.

According to Clark, the relationship with VR is still in its infancy and the technology is still expensive and not yet widespread in Australia. For a fully immersive experience, you must own a VR headset. Most of them cost over $600.
“I think there will be more romantic relationships in virtual reality environments as technology becomes more accessible,” she said.

“Virtual reality will essentially become part of the suite of technologies we use for dating, like dating apps and social media.”

A woman in a black turtleneck and glasses doing a little off-camera

Kate Clark studies VR at Monash University. sauce: SBS

Can you be physically intimate in VR?

Kissing, cuddling and even sex are possible in virtual reality. Many users report feeling physical sensations when touching their avatar in VR, even when their partner is on the other side of the world. And it has nothing to do with the hardware they’re using.
“In VR, you can really feel anything,” says Jasper.

“Kissing in VR definitely feels like a natural kiss…I developed it with Aidan. He always hugs me and we both kiss.”

Left: A virtual avatar resembling two dogs hugging in a VR forest world.Right: A man sitting in a gaming chair, wearing a VR headset and holding two controllers.

Left: Virtual avatars of Aidan (left) and Jasper (right) hugging in VR. Right: Jasper imitating a hug in real life. sauce: SBS

Clark said it was thanks to a psychological phenomenon known as hallucinations.

“The hallucinations are actually very similar to something like a phantom limb…because that severed limb…is a part of you, who you are, and what you are doing in the world.” It was part of how it worked.
“Basically, people can get similar emotions from avatars.”
However, Clark said that feeling is a separate experience from being touched in real life.
“Feeling physical sensations is not necessarily indistinguishable from real physical sensations.”
Aidan used to hallucinate, but eventually lost it as he spent more time in VR.
“I don’t care if Jasper hallucinates. [more] Because it makes me happy that he feels it with me and is happy,” he said.
VR will become even more realistic as hardware companies develop technologies such as haptic suits. These full-body suits use electrical vibrations to provide the user with bodily sensations.

On the other hand, teledildonics enables virtual sex experiences.

A man in a VR headset, black zip-up suit, and yellow gloves tests haptic technology at a trade show.

Tech companies are developing such haptic suits by bHaptics, which allows users to feel touch in VR. sauce: Getty / Alex Wong

What are the risks of dating in VR?

Australia’s eSafety Commissioner, Julie Inman Grant, warns people seeking love in virtual reality.
“Online dating services are helping millions of Australian adults find romantic needles in haystacks and explore compatibility like never before,” said Inman Grant. feed.
“However, as with all online platforms that allow strangers to meet and communicate online, dangers remain, especially for women.”
She said the risks of online dating can be exacerbated in virtual environments.
“We have long warned about the potential for virtual sexual assault in immersive environments and are aware of reports of this type of assault abroad.”
Clark said sexual assault in VR is just as prevalent as it is in real life.

“One of the earliest cases was when a woman was groped in 2016. Last year, in Meta’s Horizon Worlds, a researcher was sexually assaulted while in one of the There have been cases,” she said.

Digital Watchdog has regulatory authority over nascent “metaverse” services such as Horizon Worlds, VRChat, Roblox, and Fortnite.
Inman Grant said as immersive technology becomes more accessible, regulations are being actively considered to keep users safe.
“Our advice to people using immersive online environments for online dating purposes is the same as we give to people using more conventional online dating apps and services: do not use your real name. Take the time to get to know them and only add them as friends on social media if you really trust them.

“If you decide to meet in person, meet in a public place and tell your friends where you are going. And most importantly, trust your intuition. Probably not.”

https://www.sbs.com.au/news/the-feed/article/jasper-met-his-partner-in-virtual-reality-is-the-metaverse-the-future-of-dating/b8g2y4kur Love and Relationships in Virtual Reality: Is the VR Metaverse the Future of Dating?

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