22 Jun A Virtual Reality Love Story: Martin and Elisa
From winter wonderlands to sweltering summer tents, I have lost count how many weddings I have attended–nay, survived–over the past couple of years. I thought I’d seen it all, runaway grooms, drunken mothers attempting to strip groomsman, and the icing on the cake, a naked father of the bride. But when Martin and Elisa announced their nuptials last February I eagerly added their wedding date to my calendar.
Unlike other weddings I had attended I wouldn’t have to worry about picking out a dress, jamming my feet into uncomfortable heels, or getting hit on by someone’s creepy second cousin–which for some reason is always named Tom. For this wedding, all I had to worry about was a couch and the possibility of not wearing pants (although, in the end, I did wear them). Martin and Elisa had opted for a less than traditional ceremony and what was probably a “first,” a wedding in virtual reality.
The couple–who met in real life–decided that the metaverse was where they would like to host their nuptials. Novelty aside, a VR wedding is actually quite practical. Friends, family, and any interested wedding crashers, no matter where they are in the world, could attend the event. Martin joked during the ceremony that a guest had finally made it to one of their weddings.
Virtual reality has the ability to breakdown the physical distance and brings people together, and for this case, it was all for love. I was in Toronto, the happy couple was in Wales, and Lisa K–who was officiating–was in California.
And who knows where the rest of the guests popped up from!
The event took place with the help from AltSpaceVR, a social virtual reality platform designed to bring people together. I first came across this community at TAVES in 2015 and was instantly intrigued by how they were driving social interaction in VR.
<Insert shameless plug: I will be speaking at TAVES 2017 this October>
The virtual reality platform created a venue, which resembled how I imagine a dance club in Mordor would look like. I would have gone with floating clouds or an underwater castle but to each their own! Before exchanging vows, the couple shared anecdotes that featured clips from their favorite films and shows, all with a healthy dose of humour.
While I was enjoying the clips from The Office and chuckling behind my headset, I encountered a situation, one that I never thought possible before this very moment. I had shown up to the event with the same avatar as three other guests!
What do you do when you show up to a wedding in the same avatar as someone else? And… How is this a problem I am now facing?
In preparation for this wedding, I decided to change up my avatar. My usual look consists of a robot that resembles a cross between a floating Wii controller and a BIC pen with red accents, but for this special occasion, I opted for the teal (big change I know). After a traumatizing flashback from a previous frock fiasco, I decided to revert to my standard red glow. How embarrassing, right?
Unfazed by my avatar’s apparel the ceremony continued. Both Martin and Elisa shared touching sentiments–which I am honoured I was able to witness–and when they sealed their union, you could almost hear the clanging of their headsets. After the ceremony was over it was a sea of hearts and applause from the Mordor Club Goers. The couple then took their party offline and across the street where they could celebrate with family and friends–and finally get some cake.
This wedding was more than just a fun event hosted by AltspaceVR and the union of two people in love; it was about the future of social interaction. I spend a lot—if not most—of my time away from my family. We are spread around the globe and must rely on impersonal text messaging and video chats that resemble the opening sequence of The Brady Bunch. Virtual reality brings a whole new element to today’s social interactions. To be able to gather as a group; whether it’s a family reunion or a company conference, VR provides us with the ability to feel a presence that just isn’t achieved by any other technology. As an advocate for this medium, I am excited to see how we will foster and shape this tool as a means to socialize, educate, and care for our fellow man.
Thanks to Martin and Elisa for sharing their special day and to AltspaceVR who believe in the social element of VR!