Oculus Rift metaverse virtual baby virtual reality digital

Virtual Babies in the Metaverse: Expert Says Parents May Opt for Digital Tots Over Real Ones

3 min read

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Grab your Oculus Rift because if you love babies, you will soon be able to raise them in the metaverse like a Tamagotchi. And yet — this concept is becoming a reality at the same time as a worrying statistic. For the first time in history, in developed countries, more women aged 30 don’t have babies than do have babies. Is this really what we want from the metaverse?

Metaverse babies

Immersive worlds offer us a place to hold meetings, play games with our friends and with strangers, and go dating, among other things.

But here’s another idea. What if you could have a virtual baby, and raise it in the metaverse? You could interact with your virtual baby in lots of ways using augmented reality (AR) headsets like Oculus Rift. This could be combined with haptic touch-sensitive gloves, so you can feel the sensations of cuddling the little tyke.

You could also potentially smell that new baby smell and play with the little rugrat, depending on your headset. You could change virtual nappies, which may be way more fragrant than the real thing. The experience could be lifelike in the near future. Anyone who got addicted to Tamagotchis knows you can’t let that baby die, it feels like your own damn child.

There have been similar situations online before in the world of childcare. In the game Sims, you can choose to marry and have a baby. (When I did that, I couldn’t work out how to pick the baby up, and the baby caught fire and social workers took it away, all crispy. It still haunts me.)

While family-style games are around, there are none that yet offer a fully immersive experience. Except having a baby for real.

Nappies be smelling fine!

Digital babies

According to AI expert and psychologist Catriona Campbell, cyber babies will become common in society. Campbell is the author of AI by Design: A Plan for Living with Artificial Intelligence.

She thinks that one-in-five people may opt for a digital baby rather than a real one. Their babies will grow to adulthood over time and only exist in the metaverse. And you don’t even have to leave them any inheritance. So go on that cruise!

Campbell thinks that this will cost around US$25 a month. This will be so real, Campbell says, that  “within 50 years, technology will have advanced to such an extent that babies which exist in the metaverse are indistinct from those in the real world.”

Campbell says her aim is to secure “a healthy, human-centred relationship with AI.”

This is all well and good, except for the elephant in the room. Which is, that birth rates in modern countries are falling, so much so that the aging population will have no one to look after them.

Even in Australia, the birthrate is dropping.

Oculus Rift metaverse: Will potential parents choose virtual kids over real ones?

Metaverse digital baby moral issues

With houses being harder than ever to buy, and interest rates rising, this “no babies” situation is only going to get worse. Is this really where we want the metaverse to be in our lives? Do we not already have the biggest singleton population in our history?

Campbell says, “This will lead to the first, fully digital demographic which, although somewhat strange on first appearance, in fact represents what could be one of mankind’s most important technological breakthroughs since the advent of the Bronze Age given its potential impact on global populations and societal change.”

Is extinction is a breakthrough?

She says, “Virtual children may seem like a giant leap from where we are now, but within 50 years technology will have advanced to such an extent that babies which exist in the metaverse are indistinct from those in the real world. As the metaverse evolves, I can see virtual children becoming an accepted and fully embraced part of society in much of the developed world.”

Let’s just remind ourselves that babies are cute and give us a future, and real baby smell is the sweetest, best perfume in the world.

A digital baby can’t love you. Throw away that Oculus Rift, and exit this particular metaverse. Go to the metaverse where you meet the love of your life, and make a real damn baby.