If you’ve been looking for something to help you leave the house even less than you currently do, you’re probably going to love “Human Uber” a tech concept that allows people to be present anywhere using another person’s body.
Japanese researcher Jun Rekimoto presented his idea, called ChameleonMask, at MIT Tech Review’s EmTech in Singapore this week. Although he described it as “human uber,” his intriguing concept is more accurately described as mobile FaceTime, although even that is too much of a simplification considering that the technology aims to allow someone else to live your life for you.“To do this, a surrogate user wears a mask-shaped display that shows a remote user’s live face, and a voice channel transmits a remote user’s voice,” the Chameleon Mask website reads. “A surrogate user mimics a remote user by following the remote user’s directions.”
The surrogate dresses however the user decides and behaves according to instructions, being told by the user where to look, point, touch, etc. The user, on the other hand, can be lounging at home watching the events unfold via webcam, and interacting with the people that the surrogate meets. According to the ChameleonMask website, it would enable people to attend events that they might otherwise miss, such as a child’s recital, or a conference that takes place during a time when the user is out of the country. Or, as the developer suggested, it could be used for cosplaying an anime character. The possibilities are apparently endless.
“This design is based on our hypothesis assuming physical and social tele-presence can be embodied by such a surrogate human who imitates the remote user,” the website continues. “It also eliminates many difficulties of tele-operated robots wandering in the environment.”
In his co-authored paper on the “human-human communication mask,” Rekimoto suggests using a surrogate who is similar in height, body type and gender to yourself, and ideally someone familiar with the rest of the people in the room, such as a colleague or friend.
Similar telepresence technology already exists but is attached to a robot that the user controls remotely. Rekimoto claims that the ChameleonMask gives a much fuller and more immersive experience than these robots and that other people can see the surrogate as another person rather than a robot.
The bizarre new tech went viral on Twitter this week after MIT Tech Review writer Will Knight shared some initial pictures of the ‘human Uber’ in a tweet. According to the tweet, Knight claims that Rekimoto described the technology as “surprisingly natural.” What has been left unexplained, however, is how the surrogate is meant to see past the iPad covering their face, which looks uncomfortable, to say the least.