You guys remember the movie Avatar? Where our fearless protagonist would hop into a tanning booth-type machine and then suddenly his Avatar was running through Pandora, exploring a whole new world?
There’s currently a project on Kickstarter that looks to bring a similar experience to planet Earth. It’s called Zabosu, and it’s a technology that allows one human, sitting at home in front of their computer, the ability to “control” another person and use that person’s smartphone to see and hear all of their surroundings.
The person in control is called the Zab, and the person being controlled is the Zuc (there has to be some funny joke for that, I just haven’t discovered it yet). Using a microphone, a smartphone camera, and some 4G connectivity, Zabosu claims to be able to connect anyone in the world with streaming video and two-way audio.
So hypothetically, I could be the Zab and send some poor soul up to Queens to be my eyes and ears for the day. And why would someone do that? Well, Zucs get paid. They can set up pages on the Zabosu website with schedules and location information, and then be hired by Zabs looking for their own human robot.
The team sees people using it for gaming, sight-seeing, remote trade show attendance, and technical support.
However, there are a few foreseeable issues. Sight-seeing, to me, seems like a tough idea simply because a lot of what you do during sight-seeing trips requires that you are physically present. Here’s an example: You’re walking through New York’s Central Park, or your Zuc is, and you see one of New York’s famous hot dog stands. That’s a very real part of the experience of touring Central Park, yet you won’t get to eat one.
Part of the reason people go to tradeshows is to let their shining personalities do part of the negotiating for them. Sending someone in your stead, as a robot, doesn’t inspire a whole lot of confidence in your work ethic.
Examples like this could be the reason that Zabosu hasn’t blown away the Kickstarter community, but maybe that’s because they haven’t come up with the right use cases. I’d much prefer to have a live stream from my babysitter’s phone, when she’s running around with my children all day, than I would have a use for a Zuc to go sight-seeing for me.
Update: The campaign has been cancelled.
You can learn more about Zabosu here.