Ever thought the worst bit about socialising is the physical effort it takes to actually get up and go out?
You know the feeling. You’re burrowed away in your bed or sofa, got your comfy clothes on and you’re deep into a Netflix binge session, and although you know you should get out and maybe see some other people for once, you just can’t find the energy to make yourself leave the house?
Well, good news square eyes. It seems humanity is one step closer to shutting itself away and hiding behind technology once and for all.
Introducing the ‘Human Uber’, a person who will stand in for you at social events or meetings where you’re supposed to be, but either can’t make it or can’t be bothered to make it. Also, they’ll have an iPad strapped to their face so you can do the talking. The future is now!
The new idea was displayed at the MIT Tech Review’s EmTech conference in Asia earlier this year (the ‘Em’ stands for emerging, according to Select All). Jun Rekimoto, a Japanese AR/VR researcher affiliated with Sony, presented the idea and the technology to pull it off at the conference.
The ‘Human Uber’ idea is called ChameleonMask, and describes itself as ‘a telepresence system that displays a remote user’s face on another user’s face’.
By wearing the mask, we can be someone else and also someone can be our surrogates. The remote user can not only communicate with people who are not in the same place but also communicate physically by making direction such as body gesture with surrogate’s limbs. [sic]
While it’s hard to differentiate this between a ‘mask’ and just someone playing around with Skype or FaceTime and sticking their phone to their face, the idea is interesting…kind of. Having someone physically be there for you, with your face on a screen, rather than just using FaceTime, for example, is better? I think?
“Human Uber,” developed in Japan, provides a way to attend events remotely using another person’s body. “It’s surprisingly natural” says its inventor, Jin Rekimoto of Sony #emtechasia pic.twitter.com/WZHPVcZ6M0
— will knight (@willknight) January 30, 2018
— EmTech Asia (@EmTechAsia) January 30, 2018
The developers continue:
The idea is very simple that the remote user borrows the someone’s body and replace the face to show his presence. [sic]
However, how do people judge the person in front of them as “the right person”? Can we judge if the surrogate with similar height, physical size, and dress the same way as the remote user? [sic]
We conducted the feasibility test of the concept. Surrogate wore the mask and went to the city hall to take a resident card, or became a grandchild and met with her grandmother. As a result, people tended to regard a person who had masked the as “the right person”. How do we judge a person as “the right person”? [sic]
Then they got a bit philosophical:
On the other hand, what will happen if we wear a mask of another person? What kind of feeling is made by the experience to lend our bodies and be teleoperated?
People around you will talk to the remote user shown the display. However, we may be touched as a remote user’s body. [sic]
It seems the possibilities are endless.
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Charlie Cocksedge is a journalist at UNILAD. He graduated from the University of Manchester with an MA in Creative Writing, where he learnt how to write in the third person, before getting his NCTJ. His work has also appeared in such places as The Guardian, PN Review and the bin.