Dillon Seo, one of the co-founders of virtual reality pioneer Oculus, has launched a new business that blends artificial intelligence with the immersive aspect of virtual reality.
Voler Creative has an end goal of creating 'a virtual friend understands and empathises with you'. Seo, who left Oculus to start the project in March 2015, hopes it will be able to resolve the problem of human loneliness, and consequently alleviate consumers' self esteem.
The boyfriend or girlfriend avatar will be designed exclusively for the user and will build a relationship with them through the help of countenance expression, machine learning and big data.
However, Seo told The Drum that Voler has also been created to collect personal preference data that can be used for targeted advertising.
"There’s about $600bn spent every year for ad space and a lot of that money still goes to TV ads or radio ads or magazines or newspapers,” he said. "But people are looking for a solution to send a targeted message. To send a targeted message you have to have personal preference data: I want to know what you like to eat, what you like to drink, what you like to do during leisure time."
He continued: "That data is normally stored among your friends and family, but...I’m using a graphical interface, creating a virtual model - it can be a man or woman with an AI built in - that can engage with the human to understand their preferences."
Speaking at the Festival of Media Global, Seo explained that admitted that creating a compelling VR story is still “challenging” for creatives.
“Now that the audience has complete control of the camera, you have to reinvent the entire storyline,” he said. "[It’s like when] the smartphone came out in 2006 - a lot of developers were puzzled as how to fully understand the potential of the user interaction.
"It took about a good two to three years for content developers to figure out how to make compelling content on a smartphone. For VR it will be the same."