Surrogate 'Human Uber' Is Latest 'Black Mirror'-Style Tech
In a move that wouldn't sound out of place in the next Black Mirror episode, there's now apparently technology that lets a person with a tablet become a human surrogate for you - meaning you can go and visit your nan while remaining fully planted on the sofa with the PlayStation, or go to work without getting out of bed.
That's right, now that we've got our sex robots, the next move is to avoid all social interaction altogether.
At the MIT Technology Review's EmTech Asia conference in Singapore - that's EmTech as in 'Emerging Technology', FYI - researchers showed off what's being nicknamed the 'Human Uber', New York Magazine reports.
Jun Rekimoto, a Japanese AR/VR researcher linked affiliated with Sony, shared amusing photos of the tech in action.
"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
From IoT to IoA (Internet of Abilities)? Check out the "human Uber" example discussed at #emtechasia pic.twitter.com/ojIzkrPtv5
- Haley Ross (@haleylaurenross) January 31, 2018
What i thought when i saw Human Uber trending pic.twitter.com/0IMOMAoLde
- Chris. ☜(ﾟヮﾟ☜) (@_KrisR_) January 31, 2018
The technology is known as 'ChameleonMask' and involves someone strapping a screen to their face and walking around. It's a bit like FaceTime, but there's an actual, physical person standing in for you, too. Skype meets Deliveroo, if you will.
The surrogate wears a mask through the display on a screen, which shows the remote user's actual face, while a voice channel transmits the user's voice.
"Our pilot study confirmed that people could regard the masked person as a right person," Rekimoto said.
We're a little unsure how the surrogate is supposed to see with an iPad strapped onto their face, but maybe that's not important.
On the flipside, whether or not it's a bit of a joke, it could actually prove worthwhile tech for those less able or mobile.
"Most telepresence systems have been designed to provide a remote user's existence with tele-operated robots," a video on the ChameleonMask website says. "However, can telepresence replace humans completely?
"We hypothesise physical and social telepresence can be embodied by a surrogate human who imitates the remote user.
"It shows a remote user's live face and a voice channel transmits a remote user's voice."
You may remember similar scenes a decade or so back, when Arrested Development introduced the idea of a human surrogate, where a man with an earpiece, forehead camera and baseball cap marked 'SURROGATE' acted as a stand-in for George Bluth Sr. when he was in prison.
Except that was in a TV show - a very funny one admittedly, but a fictional show nonetheless.
And, of course, anyone who's seen the 'Arkangel' episode of the most recent season of Black Mirror will know that this probably won't come without its problems... Human Ubers, beware.
Featured Image Credit: 20th Television