Virtual Headstones Could Solve Hong Kong’s Crowded Cemeteries

The densely populated city looks to VR & AR to honor the dead while saving time, money and precious space.

Hong Kong was home to over 7.34 million residents in 2016, with that number expected to rise greatly by the end of this year. As a result, the city has been diced up into residential cubicles ensnared within winding tunnels and flyovers, leaving very little room for anything deemed nonessential. This is especially true for Hong Kong cemeteries, which over the past couple of years have become as crowded as the districts of the living.

So what do you do when a lack of space and finances prevent a group of people infamous for the honoring of their ancestors prevent them from doing so? You turn to technology of course.

In an effort to save the people of Hong Kong from what can sometimes end up being $130,000 in burial services, entrepreneur Anthony Yau has begun working with his firm, iVeneration, on a new system that gives residents the ability to pay their respects digitally using VR & AR technology. Users will be able to create virtual headstones of their departed loved ones and place them anywhere within augmented environments based around Hong Kong. This allows families to “bury” the deceased in more pleasant locations such as parks and public areas as opposed to just cemeteries.

They can then decorate their digital burial area using an assortment of items such as lit candles, flowers, religious literature and various photos of the deceased. Yau hopes that this will not only help satisfy the growing needs of grieving families by providing a cheaper alternative, but entice younger generations as well with a greener methodology. 

“The dead are taking so much more space than those who are still alive, as those buried use that piece of land for many years,” said Yau. “For those who are still alive, they won’t stay on the same piece of land forever. We need to educate the next generation on filial piety, no matter how you show it, as long as it comes from the heart. We think the next generation might use these services for their parents.”

Alex Lee, a seasoned employee at a technology company, pays his respects to his late grandfather, echoing Yau’s belief that this could be the future of filial Confucian traditions in Hong Kong:

“Everyone is aware the lack of land is a problem in Hong Kong and the government has been encouraging green burial. For me, you don’t have to go to a thing to remember those passed away, it’s all in your heart.”

iVeneration is expected to launch Q1 2018 and has already amassed 300 viewers. The website also hosts several options for a browser-based memorial. 

Image Credit: REUTERS/Bobby Yip

About the Scout

Former Writer (Kyle Melnick)

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