“Human Uber”, the strange technology invented in Japan to replace people with masks with screens

“Human Uber”, the strange technology invented in Japan to replace people with masks with screens


What comes next may look like a chapter in the award-winning futuristic Black Mirror series .. but is not.

It is a new technology known as “Human Uber” (human Uber) that allows a person to “replace” another in events and other social situations by placing a screen on his face and a device that projects his voice in real time.

The idea is that anyone can be “present” in other places using the body of another person. Something like making a Skype call with the gestures of another person.

The product is called Chameleon Mask (chameleon mask) and was presented a few days ago at the EmTech Asia conference, organized by the MIT Technology Review in Singapore.

Its creator, Jun Rekimoto , a researcher at the University of Tokyo, worked as a director at Sony Computer Science Laboratories, the largest of all the “secret” laboratories of the Japanese multinational, and says his system is “surprisingly natural . 

But the motto of the product is something strange: “You saw the personality of another person,” he claims in an informative video published on Vimeo.

(Photo: Jun Rekimoto)
Image caption Too strange to be real? (Photo: Jun Rekimoto)

“Subrogated humans”

“It’s a telepresence system that shows the face of one user in the other, most systems have been designed to use a robot, but this uses a real human as a surrogate, ” Rekimoto explains on the project’s website.

The “surrogate human” must put on a mask in which the face of the “remote user” or “director” is shown. A voice channel transmits its voice.

That person has to follow the instructions of the person who hired her to go to different places and reproduce their movements.

“The design is based on the hypothesis that social and physical telepresence can be personified by a surrogate human who imitates the remote user,” says Rekimoto. “That also eliminates many difficulties of teleoperated robots when it comes to moving around.”

According to the researcher, in several tests on the street and in workplaces “it was confirmed that people perceive the person in the mask as the real person “.

(Photo: Jun Rekimoto)
Image caption The “surrogate human” imitates the movements of the “remote human”. (Photo: Jun Rekimoto)

The technology works by placing a tablet in the face of the person “surrogate”, in addition to a speaker. On the other side, you will see through the smart glasses the indications of the “director”.

The person who “directs” the surrogate should tell him where to go and what actions to execute while his face is projected on the screen and his voice is heard on the device.

The idea is to project the real feeling that the person is there.

Photo: Chameleon Mask).
Image caption The idea can be especially interesting for those who have mobility problems. (Photo: Jun Rekimoto)

Many Twitter users commented that the idea is not new and that it has emerged in popular culture over the years. For example, in television series from more than a decade ago, such as the American “Arrested Development” (known in Spanish America as Family Sacrifices).

More recently, Sheldon Cooper , the lead scientist in “The Big Bang Theory,” portrayed something similar in a 2010 episode, albeit with a robot instead of a human.

But the truth is that until now no similar product had been presented.

Rekimoto argues that his invention is an innovation in telepresence technologies. Is this how we end up making Skype calls in the not too distant future?

(Photo: Jun Rekimoto)
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