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Virtual Reality is Already Changing the Way We Use Computers … now it’s changing the way we date too
If you’ve been away from the dating scene for a while, you might be surprised to learn that virtual reality (VR) is poised to be the NEXT BIG THING in dating and relationships.
Whether you’re in a long-distance relationship, looking for a long-term partner, or are simply in it for some socialization and fun, VR is offering innovative and exciting ways to connect and build relationships on a whole new plane of existence.
Intro to VR Dating
When you hear the words “VR” and “Dating”, what comes to mind? Romance Games? Dating Sims? How about social lounges? Pretty soon, that list will include matchmaking services. That’s right, apps and websites won’t be the only ways to try and make a match outside your personal sphere. Just slip on your headset and go.
Technology over the past few decades has revolutionized several aspects of life: gaming, business, academia, and various social aspects—including dating. Matchmaking sites made their first strides onto the internet back in 1995—pioneers in what would soon become the social web (and a billion-dollar industry).
Today, people can barely keep track of all the dating sites, matching apps, and social lounges available thanks to the internet and smartphones. Some sites are tailored to specific demographics, connecting folks from the same religion, interests, sexual orientation—there’s even a matching service specifically for farmers. Some businesses focus less on demographics and more on what types of relationships (or lack thereof) their users are searching for, such as life partners or casual flings.
Not all of the advances in our society have been for the better. Increasing pressure in the work sphere, more need for continuing or postgraduate education, and other life issues have whittled away at people’s free time. Whereas in the past you might meet a significant other in the office or at the club on the weekends, now you barely have time to think about coffee, let alone invite someone along. This is part of the reason online dating has quickly become one of the most popular avenues for finding new adventures and potential soulmates.
Dating in the Age of Social Distancing and COVID
Rapidly expanding internet access and a growing interest in VR have helped to boost dating sites and apps, with no signs of stopping, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the early stages of quarantine and lockdown, with the social aspects of most nations literally shut down, folks had fewer avenues to meet and get to know each other.
Video calls became standard first dates as people came to recognize the importance of seeing each other, even hearing each other if able. Yet something was still missing. And tech companies seem to have found an answer: virtual reality.
Imagine a romantic stroll through outer space, a tailored whimsical picnic, visiting Paris without leaving your home, all in the presence of someone you may come to love and spend the rest of your life with.
Some VR companies are looking to offer personal coaching, with simulations to help you practice interacting with potential partners or even tagging along on a couple of dates while remaining hidden from your partner. (Obviously, the latter invokes some concerns with ethics, which is why it’s still in the early stages of discussion).
Dating: From ‘Face to Face’ to Virtual Reality
For a long time, face-to-face was the golden standby for meeting new people and going on dates. In recent years, this has shifted to dating apps like Tinder, Bumble, and the like, where relationships and meeting new people takes place (at least initially) online.
Virtual reality is the next logical evolutionary step in modern-day dating, with both dating companies and apps, as well as independent ‘singles’ groups and even adult entertainment companies getting in on the action.
Fact is, modern dating has come a long way since the type of courting our parents experienced. Today, more than 40% of Americans turn to online dating for their love life, having transcended from ‘fringe’ and ‘desperate’ to the standard way to meet new flames. In fact, nearly 1/3 of all marriages in the United States began online
Virtual reality offers the opportunity to connect and interact socially with people in any location around the world, and in an immersive way never before possible through other media.
Ethical Concerns with VR Dating
With VR, prospective matches have a safe, private area to meet while still seeing and interacting with each other in real-time. Some VR tech is even learning to mimic the feel of touch, with some reports estimating full-sensory experiences by 2040. But like all tech, concerns have arisen.
Virtual life requires an avatar. Ideally, this would be a reflection of who you are or your favorite styles, but this can inadvertently lead to a false impression. With video calls, you see your date as they are; you know they are as they say. But with VR, you open the risk of predatory behavior and catfishing. This can easily be overcome, however, through exchanging photos or having a video call as a first or second date. As with many dating tips, the point is your safety and wellbeing.
Many folks who attempt online dating report that a potential match lies on their profile. Age, height, weight, lifestyle–profiles invite a certain amount of trust into a budding relationship. Other communities experience intense toxicity, though this happens more in spaces not specifically for dating; it’s a risk you run exploring social games and spaces where people can hide behind an avatar.
One of the largest conveniences with VR dating is schedules. Even if you have a hard time getting away from work or finding somewhere to meet, VR dating services are always available and provide the location. VR is more immersive than a simple text chat or watching a video screen.
Top VR Spaces for Dating
There’s one big holdup with dating in VR: very few dating spaces actually exist. Many are under development, so they’re just not here yet. You can still find a connection in a social space on VR, however, and any multiplayer VR space makes for a suitable date. Below is a list of lounges and the first three dating spaces available.
Planeta Theta is planning to open its beta in February of 2022; currently, they’re in a closed beta. They offer several languages (more than twelve), which looks to be the widest range advertised in the industry. They also offer a wide range of settings for your date, including idyllic landscapes, chic lounges, and modern cafes. Planet Theta plans to launch on all available VR gear, including the Oculus, HTC, and Valve Index.
VR Looking for Partner is one of the first dedicated VR spaces for dating. Launching in Canada in 2022, they offer a unique, less awkward experience for first meeting a virtual date. “All you need is a VR headset and a Heart”.
Karma matches potential dates through Values, Compatibility, and Intimacy. Designed with privacy and safety in mind, Karma offers a secure place to meet a match before deciding whether to trust them with real photos or zap them away into digital oblivion.
While not specifically for dating, VRChat is where it’s at right now. It’s a social lounge where you can hang out and get to know each other. If sparks fly through more than just your gear, you can go from there. Just like in real life, however, communication is key. You need to make sure the interest goes both ways. No means no, but at least you’ve made a new friend.
Another social VR, AltSpace has a more playful vibe with doe-eyed avatars. Their focus is featuring artists and bands, but it’s also a great place to meet folks with similar interests–or to take your date if you met elsewhere online (or in-person).
Live events—virtually! Oculus’ Venue app is all about connecting folks through VR during live TV events. It’s a great way to meet people who are interested in the same kinds of shows and concerts as you are in a pandemic-friendly space. The app has gone through a couple of name changes, so you may have heard of it called “Oculus Venues”, “Facebook’s Venue”, or simply “Venue”.
Popular Romance Experiences in VR GAming
If you aren’t interested in making a connection with another user, you can always explore some of the better-simulated romances. Possibilities include Skyrim VR, Focus on You, Dreams VR, Dating Lessons VR, Happy Manager, and Fallout 4 VR. Some of these focus exclusively on dating, while others simply have romance aspects.
VR Dating: Looking To the Future
Dating in Virtual Reality isn’t exclusively for finding a new partner, either. Some couples choose to take virtual chat or game dates when they can’t be together in reality. Perhaps one is traveling for business, or another is finishing school a few states away. Maybe they met on a trip and live in different countries. Maybe they matched on a dating app but didn’t want to risk meeting in public quite yet.
With VR entering the dating scene, the possibilities really are endless. The technology field has even started buzzing about full-sensory and full-dive experiences. With full sensory input, you could smell, taste and more while out with your partner. With full dive, your mind is connected to a computer so that your thoughts control your actions (think fictional tales like Sword Art Online or The Matrix).
As technology continues to progress, more doors will open for those embarking on the dating adventure or seeking to keep the flames kindled. Until then, enjoy the journey in the digital age.