Love Concerts but Hate Leaving Your House? Hire the ‘Human Uber’
The internet definitely has its problems, but whatever its many flaws might be, it's also brought many different groups of people much closer together — including, for example, those who have disposable income and those who are willing to perform undesirable and/or unusual tasks in order to earn money.
It's given rise to a thing pundits like to call the "gig economy," which — as the A.V. Club recently quipped — may have reached its logical conclusion with the arrival of technology that allows a person to serve as a sort of living digital proxy for someone else by putting an iPad on their face.
Called ChameleonMask, the service was developed by Sony vet Jin Rekimoto, and is being touted as a way for consumers to attend events without actually being there in person. As outlined in a presentation Rekimoto gave at a recent MIT tech conference, the idea is to take advantage of the human capacity to treat human-like objects as human — the same willingness to believe that makes it easy for people to forget they're interacting with the puppeteer behind a Muppet, for example. "Physical and social telepresence," argues the presentation, "can be embodied by a surrogate human who imitates the remote user."
As New York magazine quickly noted, the idea of a proxy wired for video has already been explored — specifically by the cult comedy classic Arrested Development, which dreamed up a gag involving "a helper equipped with an earpiece, a forehead camera and a baseball cap labeled 'SURROGATE' in all caps." Now, it seems, the future is here, and it involves hiring lackeys to serve as what the magazine sarcastically referred to as the "human Uber."
If it seems a little disturbing, well, hey — plenty of new technology appears off-putting at first. Clearly there's no stopping the "gig economy," and ChameleonMask has classic rock applications, too: instead of shelling out top dollar to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with your fellow screaming fans at a concert, you can now hire your own "human Uber" to get sweaty, jostled about and have beer spilled on them for you. There hasn't been a term invented yet to describe what happens when your iPad-wearing stand-in watches the concert through their cellphone, but someone is bound to come up with one soon.