You Can Now Successfully Avoid Social Contact with ‘Human Uber’

February 6, 2018 | No Comments » | Topics: Story

human uber

Gig economy apps like TaskRabbit, Postmates and DoorDash have made paying a stranger to go out and run errands for you increasingly easy, and now the ultimate couch potato’s dream has come true: “ChameleonMask,” (Human Uber, on Twitter), a new technology in which someone straps a screen to their face and acts as your surrogate at events.

For all you so-called introverted extroverts out there, this situation is pretty ideal.

ChameleonMask hopes to provide people with human surrogates who would interact with the real world on the customer’s behalf. To do this, each surrogate would wear a screen on their head that displays the customer’s face and plays the customer’s voice. The service would theoretically allow you to attend parties and other social functions from the comfort of your bed, achieving something known as telepresence, while you give directions to your surrogate — even so far as telling them what to wear.

If the technology seems incredibly complex, it probably shouldn’t: it seems little more complicated than taping an iPad to your broke friend’s forehead, switching on FaceTime, and then paying him to attend a work party on your behalf while you try to act like it’s all normal, presumably by ordering your surrogate to strike a nonchalant pose.

ChameleonMask creator Jun Rekimoto, a Japanese AR/VR researcher affiliated with Sony, showed off his new tool at At MIT Tech Review’s EmTech (the em for emerging) conference in Singapore last week. He reportedly called it “surprisingly natural.”  

In the past, telepresence technologies have used robots as surrogates. But Rekimoto claims that using human surrogates makes for a better experience, and “also eliminates many difficulties of teleoperated robots wandering in the environment.”

Still, Rekimoto’s service isn’t exactly brand new. The writers of Arrested Development came up with a very similar idea more than a decade ago in episodes where a man on house arrest hired a “surrogate” who wore an earpiece and webcam so he could be the man’s stand-in for the real world.