DUDE WTF ASIA: Japanese Resort Attracts Men with Virtual Girlfriends

First saw this on Slashdot and thought I’d share the story here: a Japanese resort is now catering to men with Virtual girlfriends from the game Love Plus (a trailer of the game is above).  Love Plus is a simulation game that lets you develop a “relationship’ with a virtual anime girlfriend, and apparently it has been a hit for its maker Konami.  One guy even “married” his Love Plus girlfriend.

One recent sweltering summer’s day, a tour bus from Tokyo pulled up at a sun-kissed beach at Atami, a Pacific coast resort southwest of the metropolis, and disgorged more than a dozen excited, iPhone-clutching young men.

The determined youngsters, paying scant attention to the bikini-clad girls frolicking on the sand, instead headed straight for a bronze statue that depicts Kanichi and Omiya, a couple from an old love story set in Atami.

The focus of the men’s attention — and of their smartphone cameras — was a tiny black and white square, a two-dimensional barcode that, thanks to “augmented reality” (AR) software, brought to life the object of their desire.

“Look, it’s like I’m in a snapshot with her,” said Shu Watanabe, 23, as he showed off his iPhone display, featuring himself next to the image of a doe-eyed cartoon character named Rinko, a smiling high school girl.

Atami has  outfitted some romantic locations where virtual girlfriends can appear (via AR software), dressed in casual summer wear.  Local souvenir shops sell “Love Plus” themed items.  Apparently, the resort town has seen its business decline, and  catering to these guys with a virtual girlfriend has helped the local economy.

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About Jeff

Jeff lives in Silicon Valley, and attempts to juggle marriage, fatherhood, computer systems research, running, and writing.
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