The Washington Post

A bump in the road toward remote-controlled humans

If you could pay a person to go anywhere on your behalf, where would you send them? (Jeff Schrier/AP)

Zabosu — an ambitious attempt to offer humans you could control as if by remote control — has halted its Kickstarter campaign. Karl Lautman made the decision just over a week into the campaign that had raised $550 of a desired $100,000. Apparently the world isn’t yet ready for remote-control humans.

“We just felt if we weren’t gaining any traction it would be better for us to pull it down and relaunch at a later day than have it fail outright,” Lautman said.

Here’s how Zabosu was expected to work. A person called the “zuk” acts as a physical stand-in for another individual. Lautman envisions uses for sight-seeing, tech help and remotely attending events. Can’t afford to see a tourist attraction, college campus or concert on the other side of the world? Then you could pay an estimated $20 or $30 an hour for someone to go in your place as you watch through their eyes online from the comforts of your couch. The hired individual streams video of their surroundings online. And the duo communicate via an earphone, so requests and commands can be made.

Lautman got the idea for Zabosu after watching Justin Kan, the man behind, broadcast his life via a Webcam worn on his body.

“I thought it would be neat if you could tell other people what to do and they sort of become your puppet and extension to you out into the world,” Lautman said. “It was just sort of crazy enough that other people would have other ideas even better than I could.”

He envisions a person hiring multiple zuks at once to save time on certain tasks, such as scouting wedding locations or touring potential office buildings.

For now, the idea has taken a small step back. But Lautman’s three-man team plans to relaunch the campaign within a couple months. He said the financial backing is less important than validating the idea and tapping the wisdom of the crowd for different uses of the product.

Could you see yourself partaking in a service like this?

Matt McFarland is the editor of Innovations. He's always looking for the next big thing. You can find him on Twitter and Facebook.

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