So, lockdown happened. It makes dating seem like an impossibility right? Modern dating had already moved on a good deal since the courtship of our grandparents and none of us rely now on meeting a partner at work on a night out.
First there was online dating and we all became used to trawling the potential talent on these sites. In the US, the industry is worth an eyewatering $3 billion and there are 40% of the population looking for love. A third of all marriages in the US start online. With sites like Bumble, Hinge and Tinder are just some of the sites that have overwhelmed the market, each with different features or approaches to finding the best partner.
Obviously, there is the potential for negative experiences and almost everyone makes some sort of omission or exaggeration of their profile. So, while tech has revolutionised dating and has certainly offered some hope of keeping love alive in the time of COVID, there is room for improvement and innovation.
And this is where the promise of VR comes to the fore. The possibility of remote social interaction allows for an immersive dating experience more than any other media.
While meetings and socialising via virtual reality are becoming more standard, meeting a partner might feel like a bit of a stretch. Can a VR date offer a personal and intense experience? It certainly will feel more present than traditional online dating that is undertaken through email and maybe some video chat. Using apps like Skype and Facetime feel more trustworthy and offer more satisfaction than speaking over the phone, there is still something missing. VR could take this sense of dating in real-time at a distance one step further towards intimate.
The possibilities for these virtual reality dates are endless. You could choose to go on a date in space, as you float on a spacewalk around the international space station or the shuttle. If you wanted something a little more traditional, you could take your potential love interest on a casual stroll along the avenues of Paris. There are limitless options for your experiences of dates online in the virtual world – and there is no need to spend any money in the process.
Not only is it relatively free, it is also a low risk way to get to know someone better. It is not just the threat of having an unpleasant experience when meeting in real-life away from the site. In the time of a global pandemic, there are even more dangers that need to be avoided – as well as laws to be adhered to.
There are studies to prove that there is a shared powerful experience to be had in virtual reality – which can be as engaging as those in real life. There is a proper opportunity for VR users to find love and to give it room to blossom. The engagement with multiple senses, being to see and hear, as well as watch as they move, are great reasons to meet in the virtual space.
What will VR mean for most of us?
Right now, VR will likely feel a little over the top to most casual daters looking to make a connection. Even with the lockdown firmly in place, most would find donning the headset and seeing the virtual avatar of a potential partner a little odd. While it might be the way of the future, it might not have found its time just yet.
However, think about the way people viewed internet dating when it was first introduced. People insisted that meeting in the club, pub or at the work coffee machine could not be replaced by a modem connection. And now, well now it is commonplace. So while VR dating has a certain taboo surrounding it right now – it is likely that it will become the norm as the technology develops and becomes more accessible.
It also offers hope for those of us who are a little clueless when it comes to dating. The virtual reality world could provide a decent training ground for learning the basics about conversation, reading people and the ways to move through a date. While it sounds strange to suggest that you can learn people skills in a computer generated environment – we have to be open-minded to the possibility.
Dating sites have also been looking for the solution to catfishing, where people stalk the online sites pretending to be someone else. Virtual Reality could be the answer to making catfishing a thing of the past.
For the user, there are possibilities for avoiding phishing bots that get into conversations to find out your personal data. However, the possibility that criminals and marketers will be sophisticated enough to generate virtual reality avatars is not beyond possibility.
And for those with mobility issues, the chance to get involved in the dating world could become a possibility. The doors would open for all sorts of people to engage in fuller human relationships using more of the senses. People lacking traditional social networks could enjoy deeper friendships and romantic relationships that might otherwise have been denied them.
Yet, all this might offer a too optimistic view of the possibilities of VR. There is a chance that such technology could end up isolating people even more, as they use the distance as an excuse to avoid the potential worries and anxieties over intimacy.
How serious should we take it?
Imagine taking the gaming industry and the dating sector and social networking all together. This is the vision that Facebook saw when they purchased Oculus. This is a sign more than anything before that the social media platforms are moving into the virtual world. It is as powerful evidence as any that we will be meeting our potential partner in cyberspace where there are no strings attached.
Has the pandemic had an impact?
The general opinion is that VR and dating would have happened whether we experienced a pandemic or not. However, VR tech, like video conferencing software, has been boosted by the problems of lockdown. Not only are developers trapped in their homes with their computers but people are looking for meaningful ways to interact that they might not have considered before.
Therefore, while COVID-19 has caused devastation in most other areas of our lives, the silver lining could be a faster evolution of technology and dating. We may be forced to get over our natural suspicions and anxieties and don the headset to meet a potential new partner.