For a generation raised on The Matrix and two seasons of Black Mirror, we clearly have not learned enough lessons about technology running amok. This week, at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, the question “Can you hear me now?” went a little further than trying to get in touch with someone across the country, through the forest or overseas.
Missing a dead friend, relative or lover? Now there’s an app for that.
Elrois, a tech company out of South Korea, introduced the With Me app at the Mobile World Congress. According to company representatives, “It was designed for those who lost a friend or family member and are having trouble moving on,” the Daily Mail reports.
The app creates 3-D avatars of celebrities, friends, ex-lovers and, according to Elrois, dead relatives who can talk to you, sing to you and interact with you as if they were still alive, all through the magic of some rudimentary artificial intelligence that the company swears won’t one day turn into Skynet and kill us all.
Want to take a selfie at the Eiffel Tower with your grandma who never got to see Paris? With Me can put her right in the photo as if she were right there with you. But, wait, it gets even more disturbing.
Once you go to a 3-D-scanning photo booth (some tech stores offer these now) and download someone’s 3-D image into the phone app (thankfully, Elrois says you must do this while someone is still alive, lest you get a zombie app by accident), you can add simple information into the With Me AI to make your avatar more interactive. Avatars can identify if your facial expression has changed in a selfie and ask you, “How are you doing today?” “You look younger; what’s your secret?” and “Where are we going for dinner?”
Looking to keep stalking your ex long after he or she has blocked you? With Me has got you. Pucker your lips in a selfie and the avatar will identify your expression, turn its head and give you a kiss. Whisper “I love you” into the phone and your avatar, which can be anything from an ex to a dead relative to a celebrity, will whisper “I love you, too” right back.
“We think the avatars can be the new way to overcome their wounded heart with a good function of new technology. That also means it can be definitely be used for various health care fields,” said Eunjin Lim, a spokesperson for Elrois, during an interview with Vocativ magazine.
Of course, all that sounds fine in theory, but the world is full of creepy, stalker-ish, never-gonna-let-you-go-forever kinds of people. For every With Me user who wants to hear long-dead Grandpa say, “I’m proud of you, son” and offer a virtual hug before a big job interview, there are a gajillion other people who are going to be cyber-clinging to an ex or, worse, doing God knows what with Avatar Rihanna.
If I need to say goodbye to a loved one, I’ll look at some videos, pour out some liquor and listen to Boyz II Men. I don’t need an app for that.