Virtual reality is becoming more and more sophisticated, with headsets like Oculus Rift and recently Microsoft’s HoloLens providing an immersive, interactive 360-degree view of a virtual world.

But two game developers in Australia want to use virtual reality in a slightly more surprising if unsettling way – to let you meet loved ones who have passed away.

‘Project Elysium’ is described “a personalized VR Afterlife experience reuniting people with loved ones who have passed”.

Check out the video above to find out more.

Photographs are used to create a realistic 3D representation of the deceased using head and eye tracking technology. Users the put on the VR headset, enter a virtual reality world that has been specially designed for them and wait for their loved one to come out of the Elysium, so they can spend time together.

Project Elysium

Elysium was developed by Paranormal Games, which was founded by childhood friends Nick Stavrou and Steve Koutsouliotas.

Both men’s fathers passed away and the idea grew from the grief they felt.

“Steve one day contacted me he said ‘I’ve got this idea, it would be awesome to see my dad. And then I realised I can just build him. It would be really cool just to stand next to him’. I loved the idea as well - thinking about it with my dad,” Stavrou recalled.

The team heard about the Samsung Gear VR Jam challenge realised the technology was there to develop the idea and they started creating the Project Elysium app to enter into the challenge.

Samsung Gear VR Innovator Edition headset

The challenge offers $1 million (£652,100) in prizes to developers who create apps and experiences using the Samsung Gear VR Innovator Edition headset (similar to the one above).

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When a loved one dies, you remember them by looking at photos, watching movies, visiting their grave and reminiscing, said Stavrou, who told that Project Elysium is merely an extension of this.

“Our aim is to provide another piece to that, so imagine going and having a portrait or statue sculptured of your loved one. We are doing the same but in digital VR, with a touch more interaction,” he said.

The team has been working with grief counsellors and mental health professionals to find out how to create Elysium in a sensitive way.

The landscape within Project Elysium will be a dreamscape – notably different to the kind of environment the user would have met the deceased

Project Elysium screenshot 1

 “We aren't chasing realism; in fact we are aiming more towards hyper realism. Where one can always discern that this is a Virtual Reality so there is no confusion.”

Each experience would be different and created from the ground up for each individual in collaboration with Paranormal Games.

“Every time you enter your project it will be the same experience. This is to ensure that nothing unexpected happens to the viewer and is a controlled environment. So when your project is completed it's your and yours alone. We don't keep it, it's a custom built piece of software” explained Stavrou.

There will be strict rules. The deceased’s next of kin or person with power of attorney must give consent for the project to be created.

The deceased must have been gone for a specific period of time before a project can be built for them and the user will only be able to spend a limited time with them in the app before it closes.

Project Elysium 2

The team are also looking into creating a cool-down period for users after the experience.

Stavrou is set to be the first person to try Project Elysium, but he won’t see the 3D model of his father until he puts on the headset to try the experience. He believes testing it will provide a greater understanding of the emotional affect the game will have on user and “is the best and safest way to completely understand and test the effects of this”.

In addition Paranormal Game is planning on allowing a living person to create an Elysiuym Project to leave behind messages for loved ones. Going forward Elysium projects could even be created of famous people open to the public.

Project Elysium is a very interesting idea. While some may find it unsettling, it could provide comfort to those who have lost a loved one.

What do you think of Project Elysium? Let us know in the Comments section below.