Dating In VR? Really?


Okay, don’t get too excited. Tinder’s not going VR just yet (though that might be interesting?). This news is actually about a brand new dating show by Conde Nast, which is now airing on Facebook Watch.


If The Bachelorette is one of your guilty pleasures, then perhaps the new show, “Virtually Dating” will appeal to you.


How Does It Work?


The premise is that two people are strapped into an HTC Vive headset, complete with full body tracking gear, and sent off to meet one another for the first time in virtual reality. Whilst the pair are in the same room in real life, they’ve been hidden from one another until the headsets are on and they’re in the virtual world. Each of their faces has been photographed and pasted onto their virtual avatars, so they do – at least – have some idea of what the other looks like during their date.


Is It Any Good?


The results are, admittedly, hilarious. However, they don’t really give the best impression of the power of VR. The disjointed avatars look like something out of Death Becomes Her, with limbs all twisted about in weird directions. When the two try to physically interact with one another, there is almost zero co-ordination between their actual body movements and what’s picked up inside the VR. As embarrassing as that may seem, it does seem to break the ice quite spectacularly.


On the plus side, the couple do get to spend their date in some unusual places… like the moon. Their avatars are transformed into other bodies at times, with much humour, of course, ensuing. A particular high point of the first episode, for example, is the guy finding himself inside a T-Rex avatar, attempting to take a virtual sip of fruit punch and knocking over a table.


Okay, so it’s a bit inane, but all dating shows are, aren’t they?


How Do The Couples Find It?


Following the date, the participants are interviewed about the experience. “It removes the nerves and you can just have fun,” says the guy who had the T Rex mishap. He and his date both chose to see each other again in real life after seeing each other with the headsets removed.


The silliness of the avatar issues as an ice-breaker meant the pair were in stitches for most of their virtual date – always a good sign. But it makes you wonder: would they enjoy the experience quite so much if the tech worked smoothly?


Could VR Be The New Way To Date?


It could go either way. The freedom to do whatever you please in VR could make for some incredibly memorable dates, but by the same token, the same barriers in interpersonal connection will probably still exist if you’re inherently incompatible as a couple. If you don’t enjoy the same virtual experience, don’t fancy their avatar, behave badly or have nothing in common, then even a virtual date on a tropical beach isn’t going to cut the mustard.


This means, however, that virtual dates could be a good alternative to real-world ones. Research has already shown that those with social anxiety respond well to interacting in a virtual environment, so virtual dating could be a real gamechanger for those who find real dates too stressful.


The rise of internet dating in recent years, especially since Tinder came on the scene, has been largely a result of our increasingly busy lives. It’s also, of course, got quite a lot to do with our growing dependence on smartphones. Either way, technology is facilitating people with meeting each other, and most of us now know at least one couple who met on a dating app.


As “Virtually Dating” has shown us, the tech isn’t quite there yet to make virtual dating a seamless experience, but there’s little reason why it couldn’t be a logical progression as adoption of virtual reality grows. Not many of us have a high-end VR system at home yet, either. It’s a question of the price coming right down, as well as the content being good enough to warrant investing in it in