Atta girl! Her name is Unity. You either know her or you don’t. She is the Unity-chan cartoon character, the mascot for a cross-platform game engine called — what else? — Unity. And this is a sofa with an odd-looking object on it. Notice the perfect color match between Unity’s attire and object’s adornment. It’ll come into play eventually. On the table there is a laptop, some computer paraphernalia and a headset.
It’s not your regular headset. It’s Oculus Rift headset. When you play video game it’s software provides 360 degree immersive virtual reality experience.
Beside conventional games, the technology is used for other recreational activities. Put the device on, and step right into the virtual reality where you can interact with the girl resembling Unity from every which angle. Move around the in-game environment using a video-game controller. In-game Unity will “follow” your movements and know if you lie down or stand up. She is a jealous type and becomes agitated if you walk away from her, punishing you with a virtual roundhouse kick. Yes, mawashi geri, a karate kick. The girl can be a virtual sensei when you want to get away. She is no dummy and she’ll talk to you, too, albeit in Japanese.
The idea of virtual girlfriend was developed by the Japanese firm Up Frontier, for the technologically savvy, presumably and ideally relationship-less single male users of all ages.
So far so good. What’s of the odd object on the sofa, then? Now you can see it from another angle. It does look like a part of human anatomy — from the wist down to the knees — dressed in Unity’s sky-blue skirt.
Yep. You can touch her too, albeit only her upper legs. And not virtually either.
The wonder of Oculus Rift technology behaves like a consenting adult: it lets the user knead “her” stand-alone thighs and rest his head on the non-virtual but not real either lap.
In the pilot version user (or should we say client?) finds himself by the sea — seagulls and all — sitting on a bench with Unity.
Designer Nico Douga has road-tested the entire demo package and declared it “has potential.” Although he found the girl’s voice annoying and the whole experience — since it was recorded for a demo video — a bit uncomfortable.
Other scenarios are being developed as we speak, as well as other “types” of virtual girlfriends. However impossibly cute, Unity might not be everyone’s favorite “type” of a girlfriend. Is “lonesome lap” going to be the only part of “her” available in the future? Any other body parts and, well, supporting assets are in the works?
Sam was a genius IT guy. Sort’a weird, unkempt and totally lacking social skills. But one day his demeanor changed. Sam brightened up, started shaving and changed shirt every day. He became a 9-to-5 guy, no longer spending his nights in the office. “Must run. Rebecca is waiting,” he’d say.
Has Sam fallen in love? He must’ve had! Good for him. Genius or not, the guy needed life, and now it seemed he got it.
“Rebecca was waiting” every day for a month or so. Then, just as suddenly, Sam has fallen back into his “before Rebecca” routine.
Using my charming Russian accent (both as a shield and an endearment currency), I asked Sam what happened to Rebecca. And he told me a sad tale…
Have I mentioned that all of the above was taking place in the mid-stone age, one dark hour past meridian before internet, on-line dating, chat rooms and Wikipedia? Before the 3D animation? CD-ROMs were the IT thing.
Sam had HER on CD. Rebecca was INTERACTIVE. Sam had three choices: 1. Rebecca: Sexy blonde with big hair in frilly negligee, 2. Mary Jane: Brunette dominatrix, attired entirely in leather, whips in hand, and 3. Tabitha: Redhead with severe green eyes behind cute specs (for those few who finds serious “librarian type” sexy).
2D Rebecca sported 34DD bust and zoomed across the screen as the program shuffled series of her images, in different poses and facial expressions, more or less in accord with the flow of her “conversation” with Sam.
— Hi, Sam! So happy you are back! Do you miss me?
And so it went, until Rebecca became so annoyingly predictable that, in disgust, Sam had written his own far superior program. He called her Heather… Sam was no Pygmalion, and didn’t fall in love with his own creation. Moreover, he immediately abandoned both Rebecca and his Galatea-Heather.
It, too, included CD-ROM. It portraits and bios of a hundred or so Russian women. As Sam made his selection (needless to say, his choice was a sexy dimply blonde with big hair), the agency arranged a trip to Russia for him, to meet the girl. They married and their success story was used by the agency as an advert. What can I say, Sam must’ve fallen in love with my Russian accent.
Who knows, his life could’ve turned out very differently if he were a lonely, single Japanese male now…
Sam would be sitting on his sofa, Oculus Rift headset on and interact with his virtual girlfriend, experiencing 360 degree immersive virtual reality while kneading a latex Hizamakura pillow in the form of a pair of thighs…