The future is here, and so are strangers in iPad masks pretending to be you.
The past few years have given us a vast array of technological advancements to help us completely avoid the horrors of human interaction. Tired of being forced to share a few words with the pizza guy, your Uber driver, or the kid who bags your groceries? Worry not, lifeless machines will spare you of all that. Done with dating? There are plenty of sex robots out there to appease your carnal needs, too. But now, finally, researchers have perfected a way for you to stay social without actually having to leave the comfort of your own home again—by having a surrogate strap on an iPad mask and venture out into the world for you.
Japanese researcher Jun Rekimoto presented his new tech, called ChameleonMask, at MIT Tech Review’s EmTech this week, Select All reports. ChameleonMask has apparently been described as a “Human Uber,” but it’s really closer to a mobile FaceTime.
According to its website, the technology “uses a real human as a surrogate for another remote user,” by giving the surrogate “a mask-shaped display that shows a remote user’s live face, and a voice channel transmits a remote user’s voice.” Rekimoto reportedly described the experience of using ChameleonMask as “surprisingly natural,” which does sound surprising.
“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
Basically, it would work like this: Say your friend needs help moving, but you don’t want to go lug boxes around all day. Just hire someone to do the moving for you while you beam your face onto a ChameleonMask from the comfort of your bed and offer words of encouragement. Or maybe your son has a baseball game that you can’t quite make? Someone in a ChameleonMask will go sit in the stands so you can cheer him on remotely. ChameleonMask recommends getting a surrogate who has a similar body type. Sounds great, right?
— Haley Ross (@haleylaurenross) January 31, 2018
It’s unclear how exactly a surrogate is able to see, since the ChameleonMask appears to cover the whole head, but maybe eye holes will be coming in the next update.
The idea behind ChameleonMask isn’t particularly new. Telepresence technologies of varying quality have been around for years, and, as Select All points out, the whole thing sounds inspired by Larry Middleman from Arrested Developmen. Still, you could be talking to a stranger wearing your friend’s face at a party sometime soon. What a world!