Tele-presence can be defined as having the visual and auditory senses operating at a live (non-virtual) location remote from one's own physical location. Effectively removing the eyes and ears from the body’s location and having them operate in real time from somewhere else.
Tele-presence is currently being used for military and exploratory purposes allowing the body to exist in dangerous or inhospitable physical environments.
This project uses similar technology but explores its use in a social context.
The remote hardware consists of a small camera and a binaural microphone. The user views the camera’s image through a set of TV glasses. The head movements are monitored and translated directly to the remote camera in real time. The link between user and camera is wireless. The remote camera can be attached to any moving object, in military use this is usually a robot.
This project replaces the robot with a trained Labrador, enhancing maneuverability, access and intelligence and substantially decreasing costs.
This element has been built to operational prototype. The second stage proposes a series of speculative applications based on the minimisation of the above technology. In particular replacing the dog with a person to facilitate the rent-a-body service:
• Blind dating - Individuals of a nervous disposition or lacking social skills can use the rented body to go on blind dates in their place.
• Meetings - Businessmen can rent a body to attend meetings.
• MPs can enjoy voyeuristic visits to the shady end of town without repercussion.
The rented body has his senses removed, he can see nothing and hear only the voice instructions of his user. His body becomes literally a host.
Alternatively, parasitical tourism is achieved by attaching the camera to people in a different social circle to your own. This becomes like a live ‘fly on the wall’ documentary.
Complex legal documents have been drawn up dealing with responsibility and the witnessing of illegal acts.
•Vehicles – Enabling remote real-time tourism. By attaching the camera to a taxi in New York the user feels like he is literally sitting on top of it. This facilitates random journeys through foreign cities.
The project was envisaged before the availability of 3G mobile services. This new technology could make social-telepresence a readily available service.
Social Tele-presence is in the permanent collection at MoMA, New york.