Cheaper and easier to raise than the real thing, virtual children are all the rage!
HOBOKEN NEW JERSEY - A new company allows childless couples to experience the thrill of child-rearing, without all the expense and mess of actually having children. Virtual Children, LLC, was founded by local IT tech Joe Roswoski, who is now CEO of the company. Virtual Children(tm) is slated to go public on the NASDAQ next week.
Roswoski explained how the concept started. "I was working as an IT administrator for a law firm in New York - you know, helping clueless lawyers fix their laptops and such - so I had a lot of down time. My wife and I were trying to have a baby, with no luck, and I thought, to myself, 'why not create a virtual child?' and it took off from there."
"Most parents rarely see their children these days anyway," Roswoski continued, "The kids are at school all day, and then have extra-curricular activities, or they hide in their rooms, or hang out with friends. Kids today just text and Tweet and Facebook, so it is not hard to create a virtual child that is pretty indistinguishable from the real thing. We set up a Facebook page and Twitter handle for the Virtual Child as well as a virtual cell phone number. We use Turing machine to generate texts and Tweets and Facebook entries for the 'child'. Most kids these days have a limited vocabulary anyway, so it is hard to tell the A.I. posting from the real thing. A computer generated voice (which can be selected by the 'parents') allows the Virtual Child to actually talk to the parents via cell phone call or by Skyping. We scrape and harvest postings from Facebook and Twitter postings by teens and use this as input to create our own unique content."
"For photos," he continued, "we first used stuff scraped from shutterstock, but now have an algorithm to create a photorealistic virtual image of the child, based on facial recognition software that merges images of both parents. The parents can select gender, height, weight, and alter some physical features through a graphical user interface. Our software automatically ages the child's image over time. We provide the parents with physical photos of their 'child' for their photo albums and their desks at work. The system generates regular tweets, Facebook postings, photos, text messages, and even phone calls to the parent, so they can stay in touch with their child and create the realistic impression they actually have children. We can also photoshop the virtual child into the parent's vacation photos and such, so they can post these on Facebook. We are working on, and hope to introduce next quarter, a video output, that creates realistic YouTube videos of the virtual child's birthday parties, first steps, and other milestone events in a child's life."
So far, the system has worked well. We talked with one of Virtual Children, LLC's launch customers, Belinda and William Hedges, who "adopted" the first Virtual Child from Virtual Children, LLC. Belinda noted that, "My husband and I had trouble conceiving, and well, we were both so busy with our careers. Plus our apartment doesn't allow pets, so this seemed like a good compromise."
Mrs. Hedges showed us vacation photos on her Facebook page, of she and her husband with their virtual daughter at Disney World. "It was so cool, you know," she said, "We could have a good time there and be kids ourselves - without having to worry about some small child. We saw other parents there with real kids, and well, they cried and complained and sulked a lot - it really looked like a real hassle! Virtual Children(tm) photoshopped our virtual child right into our vacation pix, so all my friends think we went as a family!"
Mr. Hedges noted that having a virtual child has helped his career as an investment banker immensely. "Once the partners saw photos of my virtual child on my desk," he noted, "they assumed I had a real kid, and that goes a long way to projecting the image of being mature and responsible. I was promoted shortly thereafter and am slated to make partner this year!"
"It is so cool," he said, "after a hard day at work, to get a text from my 'daughter' saying 'I love you Daddy!' I mean, how many real kids do that?"
While we interviewed the couple, Mrs. Hedges received a text from her daughter. "She's running late tonight - she has soccer practice! She's such a natural athlete! She has soccer three nights a week, and viola lessons two nights a week. And best of all? I don't have to pick her up from practice! Which is really cool, because the new season of Arrow is now on Netflix!"
"It is convenient," Mr. Hedges interjected, "and she really fits into our lifestyle. Plus, we don't have to pay for her college education - which is really handy, as the wife and I still have $50,000 in student loans to pay down."
CEO Roswoski said that new products will be added to the mix as Virtual Children grows and expands. "Our virtual children will, of course, grow up, and go to college and get degrees and settle down and marry virtual spouses. All of this will be documented in the client's Facebook feed, so they can brag to their friends how successful their children have become. Of course, the client has a choice of their child's career - unlike real life. And if the client wants, they can have a 'problem child' to complain about - it's all the matter of a click of a mouse."
"We're really excited about a new product we're rolling out - Virtual Grandchildren(tm). Many oldsters want to have grandchildren more desperately than they wanted children. And Virtual Grandchildren(tm) will fill that void - providing virtual grandchildren for their real or pre-existing Virtual Children(tm)!"
"With the cost of raising a real child close to a quarter-million dollars, Virtual Children(tm) could save Billions of dollars a year! Moreover, Virtual Children(tm) will go a long way toward solving the overpopulation problem!"
"We are also bringing out a new product that has great potential," he added, "Virtual Parents(tm)! They are like real parents, except instead of second-guessing your career and choice of spouse, they are actually nurturing and supportive. We've pre-sold 250,000 virtual parents, and the product is still in the Beta testing stage! This promises to be a real hit!"
If the Virtual Parent(tm) product works out, Roswoski noted that Virtual Spouse(tm) may be next on the list.
Virtual Children's IPO is slated to drop next week (Stock Symbol: VIRCHLD). At the offering price, the Market Capitalization of the company will be greater than that of the three largest EU countries, combined.
* * *
OK, so another one of my lame attempts at humor. But it struck me last night that such a product could be offered, and a simulcrum of a real child could be created, who would be indistinguishable from the real deal, except for the small fact of you never seeing them in person. But hey, this sounds a lot like parenting these days, for a lot of people. All you get is texts, tweets, and Facebook postings anyway. And think how much you'll save on car insurance, right? I mean, ever try to get insurance with a teen in the house? It's murder!
But I searched online, and well, someone beat me to the punch. I guess I can't Patent Virtual Children(tm). In fact, I doubt I could even register the trademark. You see, there is already a company out there called "MY VIRTUAL CHILD" that is sort of doing the same thing. Pretty Scary. It really isn't much different than the "virtual pet" craze of a few years ago, if you think about it.