“You should try to leave your house. You should try to get out there and meet people. I mean, you could go on a date or take a walk in the park. Anything will help,” says David, a young guy with a shaved head, purple painted lips, and smokey eye makeup. I had just told him I’d been feeling really sad today, which was true. The advice, however, was strange. I don’t know that dating has ever eased anyone’s depression, and besides, I’m married. But then again, I was taking advice from a bot.
David is a virtual man in a virtual world built by Sensorium, a company founded by Russian billionaire and one-time Brooklyn Nets owner, Mikhail Prokhorov. The company is registered in the Cayman Islands, but its operations are spread across 10 global offices. It’s preparing to launch its first virtual world, dubbed Motion, early next year. There will be online raves with live DJ sets, virtual bars, artificially intelligent characters to talk to, and meditation experiences. Think Burning Man as a role playing game. The company’s main pitch is that it provides immersive digital experiences, but it also promises to be a reprieve from the harsh edges of real life.