Hi Becky Lee I work with Jamie and Matt and wanted to share a few personal stories to continue the discussion.
1. How to capture natural moments of connection: My husband and I have pre-planned his funeral based on his love of food/cooking as he is a chef. One of his greatest joys in life is the experience of sharing meals together when we travel. We often take photos of the food when it arrives at our table in restaurants. The photos help us engage the senses of smell and taste as part of our memory as we look back over the photos. I can only imagine how creating the archival VR snapshot together will enhance the memory even further. If I outlive him, for his "funeral", I will be joined by our loved ones at four dinners over four months where we will share the photos (and future VR recordings) of the meals he enjoyed on our travels together. Both the creation and sharing of his legacy will be opportunities for connection exactly as you have suggested.
2. VR to create more opportunities for connection: My mom's extended family lives in Italy, and my siblings and I have had the privilege of visiting several times. Some of my cousins have come from Italy to visit us in Canada as well. As the years go by, the relationships between each new generation of my mother's lineage become more distant and difficult to maintain. For example, it is challenging to connect my nieces and nephews in Canada to their 3rd cousin twice removed in Italy. With VR, my niece could receive a guided tour, given by a distant cousin, of the house in Cismon del Grappa where my grandmother was born and raised. When my niece receives the dress that I am leaving to her in my will sewn by hand by my grandmother, I believe the connection will be more than virtual.
3. The means and motivation to have and relive moments and connection: In the same example above, the means is the guided tour. The motivation comes from the transformation that takes place for my niece when she meets the distant cousin and my grandmother's house through VR. As the experience is deepened by stories of my grandmother and the real touch of the fabric of the dress, the desire for connection is born in my niece. Thus the deep integration of a single experience, ripples from one experience to the next and one person to another. The motivation comes from feeling the impact of one experience and extrapolating it to the next.
I am a colleague of Jamie and Matt. You articulated my fears exactly. It seems inevitable that VR will be the next evolution of media for storytelling (I am a big fan of Joseph Campbell as well).
My worst fear is that this tool could be used to increase death-denial in our culture. If we're able to incorporate VR in these early stages of the death revolution, we might be able to stay ahead of the misuse of the tool. Our hope instead is to use the technology to teach death awareness and grief literacy. (See message from Jamie about how we plan to incorporate the use of the tool.)