COVID-19 Update

‘Human Uber’ & Other Telepresence Systems Could Mean Even More Time at the Ballgame for Me This Summer

ChameleonMask, nicknamed the Human Uber, could help people avoid schedule conflicts by sending surrogate telepresence systems with an iPad for a face.

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Perhaps the best part about the invention of the so-called Human Uber (telepresence systems) is we no longer have to lean on The Jetsons or Minority Report when we talk about pop culture technology that’s finally gone mainstream. The idea for the ChameleonMask dates back a decade to Arrested Development.

For those unfamiliar with the episode, the idea centered around a guy named Larry Middleman standing in for a rich guy in prison by using an earpiece, a forehead camera and a baseball cap with the word SURROGATE in all capital letters. The Human Uber takes things to the next level with an iPad. 

It’s an update in some ways on telepresence robots because it replaces the robot with a real person, but still allows the person to “be” somewhere else than sitting in front of his or her device’s camera.

Jun Rekimoto, a Japanese AR/VR researcher affiliated with Sony, showed off his invention this week at the MIT Tech Review’s EmTech conference in Asia.

“Our pilot study confirmed that people could regard the masked person as a right person,” said Rekimoto during the conference. The developers also tested cosplaying as an anime character in real life.

A surrogate user of telepresence systems wears a mask-shaped display that shows a remote user’s live face, while a voice channel transmits a remote user’s voice.

Is There Really Any Practicality in Telepresence Systems?

My first thought when I read about the so-called Human Uber is: since I won’t be attending ISE this year, can I eat fresh, hot stroopwafels through an iPad?

And, as much as I love going to as many Boston Red Sox games as possible every year—after all, I’m a weekend season ticket holder—there are some instances where it’s a real hassle to get to the game.

I wonder if I’d get as much enjoyment out of having SURROGATE telepresence robots go to the games, get me my souvenir bobblehead, and sit in my seats for the next three hours or so.

Or … maybe a better use of my stand-in would be having him go to family gatherings I could do without, or events that conflicted with a weekend Sox-Yankees series,  and the hosts and other guests would be none the wiser?

I’m not sure I really like the ‘Human Uber’ moniker for ChameleonMask, but that seems to have caught on quickly.

I get what it means, but feel like it’s a bit confusing, since I think of transportation when I think of Uber—and ChameleonMask is more about someone being in two places at once, or at the very least, avoiding having to be somewhere he’d rather not go.

I’m sure there are more practical applications for telepresence robots and the ChameleonMask, but for some reason, my mind keeps going back to eating stroopwafels and watching baseball games.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to check the Sox schedule to see whether my surrogate needs to take my place at InfoComm 2018 in June and figure out which weddings I need him to go to in my place.

Robots will be at ISE 2018 — read our coverage here.

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