Wannabe parents of the future will have the option to create virtual children that they interact with through virtual reality glasses (stock image)
Cyber tots will become a reality sooner rather than later, futurologist Dr Ian Pearson told The Sun.
WANNABE parents of the future will ditch the hard work of having real children in favour of "virtual" kids.
That's according to one esteemed technology thinker, who says people will be playing and interacting with cyber tots as early as 2050.
Futurologist Dr Ian Pearson told The Sun that "parents" will interact with these children through augmented reality (AR) glasses.
The digital youngsters will be based on our DNA and act and grow up just like real kids, but will live forever and cost nothing to raise.
"By 2050, we'll have a far better understanding of DNA, and people of the future will be able to upload their full genome to a computer database," Dr Pearson said.
"You could then combine your digital DNA with someone else's and simulate a child that lives a virtual existence.
NIANTIC / POKEMON COMPANY
Augmented reality is already used in smash-hit games like Pokemon Go
"Through augmented reality you could chat to them as they wander around the home. If you don’t like them you could switch them off and pick a different one."
Technology that lays virtual characters over the real world – known as augmented reality – is already hugely popular.
It was a key part of the smash-hit smartphone game Pokemon Go, which superimposed cartoon monsters onto the world as seen through your smartphone snapper.
According to Dr Pearson, it's a matter of time before people begin using the tech to interact with virtual children.
"It will be perfect for people who can't have babies naturally, either through infertility, lifestyle or otherwise," he told The Sun.
"If you have a busy job or don't have a partner to share the load, you could switch the child off when you didn't have the time to look after them.
"You’ll have an easier relationship with them too, because they're not there all the time."
The technology could allow people eyeing up their first child to test out the parenting experience before going the whole hog.
The setup would work similarly to the robot baby simulators that became popular in the early 2000s.
Much like their mechanical counterparts, virtual kids will boasts lifelike cooing, crying and vomiting to test your mettle ahead of the real deal.
And according to Dr Pearson, the tech will be here sooner rather than later.
Picture-sharing app Snapchat also boasts its own AR tools
"You could have a basic version of this technology within a few years. Something that acts like a baby but isn't based on your DNA," he said.
"Young couples could use it as a trial in augmented reality before committing to a real child.
"By 2050 or 2060, we'll understand how the genome works well enough to have lifelike virtual children based on your DNA.
"It'll act and grow like a real human and you'll know beforehand if it'll grow up to be tall, short, blue eyes or green eyes, and more."
Tech firms like MagicLeap are already developing technology that encourages you to walk around your home with AR glasses that are on all the time
Is there a risk that people will pick a virtual child over a real one? Not in Dr Pearson's eyes.
He says the experience of having your own kids will always trump anything viewed through high tech goggles.
"There might be circumstances where people would have had kids but go with this option instead," he told The Sun.
"But it'll be a very small percentage. We might see a drop in the number of babies born each year, but only a very slight one."