Virtually reality is resurrecting the dead to help the living cope with their grief.
A Korean television show used the technology to reunite a mother with her deceased seven-year-old daughter, complete with touch-sensitive gloves and audio.
The show, called ‘Meeting You’, recounted the story of a family’s loss of their seven-year-old daughter Nayeon, who passed away from an unnamed disease in 2016.
The two were able to touch, play and hold conversations, and the little girl even reassured her mother that she was no longer in pain.
However, while the mother appeared to find the experience beneficial, experts have warned about the ethics of carrying out a ‘radical psychological experiment’ on TV for the purpose of entertainment.
Jang Ji-sung, Nayeon’s mother, put on the Vive virtual reality (VR) headset and was transported into a garden where her daughter stood there smiling in a bright purple dress.
‘Oh my pretty, I have missed you,’ the mother can be heard saying as she strokes the digital replica of her daughter.
The Korean company Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation, or MBC, worked on designing Nayeon’s face, body and voice to be as accurate as possible, Aju Business Daily reported.
The little girl with bright eyes and jet black hair asked her mother where she had been and if she thought about her. Jang then responded: ‘I do all the time.’
As her daughter said, ‘I missed mom a lot,’ Jang replied, ‘I missed you, too.’
Jang was hesitant at first to touch the digital child until Nayeon insisted she hold her hand.
Jang held her daughter’s hand with tears streaming down her face.
Nayeon’s father, brother and sister, who were all watching the event from the audience were also crying.
At one time, the little girl runs up to her mother and hands her a flower saying: ‘Mommy, you can see that I’m not hurting anymore, right?’
At the end of this magical journey, Nayeon lay down to sleep, saying that she was tired, and her mother said goodbye.
Jang, who wears a necklace with Nayeon’s ashes in the charm, said she did the documentary to help other people who have lost a brother, parent or child, as she had.
‘Three years later, I now think I should love her more than miss her and feel sick so that I can be confident when I meet her later. I hope many people will remember Nayeon after watching the show,’ Jang wrote on her blog.
However, Dr Blay Whitby, philosopher and technology ethicist at the University of Sussex told MailOnline that the television show raised some ‘worrying ethical issues’.
‘We just don’t know the psychological effects of being “reunited” with someone in this way,’ Dr Whitby said.
‘A lot of psychiatrists would regard that as potentially unhealthy. The problem is that in the pursuit of profit or worse, people will be exploited.’
Dr Sarah Jones, Deputy Dean of Computing, Engineering and Media at De Montfort University, Leicester, added that the experiment raises other ethical concerns.
‘Just because it is possible to use technology to virtually bring people back to life to meet with those grieving, it doesn’t mean we should,’ she said.
‘One of the main concerns is the right of the deceased. Would they want to be digitally brought back to life? Who controls the words that they say? Could this be manipulated to force conversations that they wouldn’t have agreed to?
‘The further concern is how long do you keep that relationship alive? Is it a one-time opportunity to enable closure or do you then prolong that relationship?
‘There is no doubt that this could help those grieving to provide closure in a one-time event but it raises huge ethical concern, ignoring the rights of the deceased and also manipulation of the mind.’
Wendy Grossman, the founder of the Skeptic and a writer of on computers, freedom, and privacy, also weighed in about the ethics of using VR to reunite the dead with the living.
‘The story strikes me as very much high-tech spiritualism with all the potential for fraud and deception that used to be associated with fraudulent mediums,’ she told MailOnline.
‘A key question for me is who controls the daughter’s avatar? Someone has to provide it with things to say and movements to make, and the potential there for emotional manipulation is horrifying, given that the loss of a child is the most terrible bereavement of all.’