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Researchers Create Radio Controlled Humans 262

utherdoul writes "Say goodbye to remote-controlled cars, say hello to remote-controlled people. Forbes.com (disclosure: I work there) sent a lucky reporter (further disclosure: I am jealous it was not me) to the SIGGRAPH computer graphics conference in Los Angeles, where NTT researchers debuted a device designed to exploit the effects of Galvanic Vestibular Stimulation. As the story explains, when a weak electrical pulse is delivered to the mastoid behind your ear, your body responds by shifting your balance towards it. If the current is strong enough, it not only throws you off balance, but alters the course of your movement. Reading about it really doesn't do it justice -- you have to check out the crazy video of a remotely controlled woman. (Realvideo)"
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Researchers Create Radio Controlled Humans

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  • Great .. (Score:2, Funny)

    by torpor ( 458 )
    .. I for one welcome our new remote-control weilding overlords, and remind them that, as a devoted member of their volleyball team, disco enclave, and cow wash, I'm perfectly qualified to serve drinks at their orgies, fresh coppertops and all ..
    • As can be clearly seen in the video, the woman being controlled was not wearing a tin-foil hat. No one wearing such a hat has ever been controlled in this way.
      • Re:Great .. (Score:2, Funny)

        by HUADPE ( 903765 )
        Worst part of this whole thing is, the tin foil would probably work. Oh dear, here come the "paranormal experts." Run. Now.
  • by SlashEdsDoYourJobs ( 905360 ) on Saturday August 06, 2005 @06:34AM (#13257186) Homepage
    I, for one, hope women will welcome me as their new remote-control-weilding overlord.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 06, 2005 @06:53AM (#13257238)
      My powers of prediction tell me that such a position would have an extraordinarily short life expectancy. Particularly, for a slashdot reading marshmellow, that bitches about the editors, while living in his parents basement like a trapdoor spider; pouncing on 2L bottles of Mountain Dew and bags of snackie-cakes that wander too close.
    • That's the main market, but don't forget there's also a possible niche for suicide bomber recruiters (there is a major labor shortage there, only idiots take a job with such lousy carreer opportunities).
      • there is a major labor shortage there, only idiots take a job...

        Come off it. There's no shortage of idiots in the world.

    • I am pretty sure this will make a lot of parents very happy.

      no more leashes or other low tech brat-controlling hardware.
      maybe I will give parenthood a shot once this is working well enough... and scriptable through python...
  • by utexaspunk ( 527541 ) on Saturday August 06, 2005 @06:36AM (#13257193)
    Yes, here's the secret new interface paradigm promised by the Nintendo Revolution. Beware, though!- firmware v2.0 turnes it into an enslavement device, and the rest of us will have to fight an army of 8-16 year olds! (plus a few older /.ers...)
  • They researchers discuss using the method to generate vertigo and "centrifugal forces" for gamers. If it works in gaming, it will no doubt find a way into simulator training for military operations too. The applications aren't exactly endless, but there does seem to be a market for this.

    I wonder if it is painless. Except for the falling over, I mean.
  • by Council ( 514577 ) <[rmunroe] [at] [gmail.com]> on Saturday August 06, 2005 @06:39AM (#13257207) Homepage
    If you want to fight it, all you have to do is go limp.

    It can't force you to walk anywhere, it justs makes you tip in one direction or the other, and your automatic walking reflex keeps you under your center of gravity.

    The video didn't look all that "crazy". It was just a woman walking around with a dazed expression and silly grin. We can only assume she was under control of the remote.
    • It can't force you to walk anywhere

      That's why they have a midget follow you around with a sharp pointy stick.
      • There might not be enough midgets to go around, but a shock collar is easily remote-controlled and would do the job just fine.

        I can't say for sure, but making a remote-controlled human might be as easy as putting one two probes in the brain - one to stimulate euphoria, the other disphoria. Then just call them on a cellphone a tell them what to do, and push the "nirvana" button to make them feel good about doing it. If they resist, push the "unbearable torment" button for a moment. There's no need for l

  • by Jah-Wren Ryel ( 80510 ) on Saturday August 06, 2005 @06:41AM (#13257216)
    I just watched the video and it is way cool.

    Unlike those dopey walking and dancying robots which I have no interest in, if Sony would just bring to market the "remote controlled goofy japanese cutey" I would buy one, heck I'd even go for two and get twin models -- they could remotely control each other when I get bored with doing it myself.
    • I think you may be interested in La Femme Objet [cinema-nocturna.com], a film about a remote-controlled goofy non-japanese cutey. Incidentally, besides being interesting the movie can also serve another function - namely to facilitate masturbation, which might be extremely useful to you, given that in the foreseeable future you are unlikely to find sexual satisfaction with either a real woman or a remote controlled cutey from Sony......
  • by Anonymous Coward
    and you can walk like a drunk without having to drink :D
    isn't sciense marvellous these days :)
  • by The Slaughter ( 887603 ) on Saturday August 06, 2005 @06:43AM (#13257223)
    "Honey, get me a beer?" "I'm busy." "I said... a beer, woman!" *zap* "Thank you." It works in reverse too.. "Honey, can you finish building the deck?" "I'm busy" "I said.. finish building the deck!" *zap* Yknow it really brings new meaning to couples fighting over the remote control....
    • They should add "quick path" buttons to the remote controllers:
      a) collect GPS readouts of the subject's path
      b) provide way to create macros (manually navigate her from sofa to fridge, then use the system to automatically create a macro for reverse navigation fridge to sofa)
      c) control your wife with few easy to use buttons

      Sorry, but I am not finishing this with a "profit" list item...
    • Except getting your woman to get you a beer would return you a beer. Your woman getting you to build a deck would return a footstool.
  • Gee, this should be posted in Your Rights Online :-)

    And send that woman right to my bed!
  • robots (Score:5, Funny)

    by racerxroot ( 786164 ) on Saturday August 06, 2005 @07:05AM (#13257265) Homepage
    must... watch... video... can't ... control... own.. movements... ahhhhh!! So, we have androids that look and feel alot like humans (earlier /. article), and now we have people that act like robots. this is getting a little too weird for me.
    • But you'll need to take out the space that the slashcode put into the URL. Can't find any way around it.
    • unfortunately mplayer does not work on the rm or the asf posted by someone else. Only the audio works. But both audio and video works fine in xine!
      • unfortunately mplayer does not work on the rm

        Works fine for me:
        (some munging to remove "junk" characters to get past lameness filter)

        $ mplayer http://images.forbes.com//video/fvn/misc/radiocont rolledhuman.rm
        MPlayer 1.0pre6-3.4.3 C 2000-2004 MPlayer Team
        CPU: Advanced Micro Devices Athlon 4 /Athlon MP/XP Palomino Family: 6, Stepping: 2
        Detected cache-line size is 64 bytes
        CPUflags: MMX: 1 MMX2: 1 3DNow: 1 3DNow2: 1 SSE: 1 SSE2: 0
        Compiled with runtime CPU detection - WARNING - this is not optimal!
        To g

  • by red_forge ( 249486 ) on Saturday August 06, 2005 @07:11AM (#13257280)
    err... my Japanese isn't too hot but I think the commentator in the clip refers to the device as the "parasite human".

    Is it just me or is this really sinister?

    They also relate it to robotics research... human robots..

    Also it looks like it should be easy to build into standard audio headphones.... perhaps they already have!.... dun dun DUHHHH!

  • One can imagine some cool applications for this sort of thing...

    - Computers that help people avoid falling down if they, for whatever reason, have lousy balance or slow reaction. Perhaps it could help older folks for whom falling down can be a serious risk.

    - When the officer says "Walk on this line with one foot in front of the other," I'll say "Yes sir, anything you say, just let me put on my special balance-assist eyeglasses."

    - A game like Dance Dance Revolution might use this to help teach you to get jig
    • by Anonymous Coward
      As someone who suffers from vestibular dysfunction (i.e, I experience daily what these research subjects went through, and my bad spells are more intense), I think I can offer some insight on this:

      - Computers that help people avoid falling down if they, for whatever reason, have lousy balance or slow reaction. Perhaps it could help older folks for whom falling down can be a serious risk.

      Doubtful. You'd have to be able to perfectly compensate for the damage in order to cancel it out. It's like applying an
      • As someone who suffers from vestibular dysfunction (i.e, I experience daily what these research subjects went through, and my bad spells are more intense), I think I can offer some insight on this:

        Sounds like you know a lot more about this stuff than most of the other /.-ers put together. Still, don't let your own circumstances limit your imagination when it comes to considering possibilities.

        - Computers that help people avoid falling down if they, for whatever reason, have lousy balance or slow reaction.

    • - Computers that help people avoid falling down if they, for whatever reason, have lousy balance or slow reaction. Perhaps it could help older folks for whom falling down can be a serious risk.

      Better yet, now we can finally design those 60' tall mechanical robot-tanks without the pesky requirement to put the operator pretty much exactly at the center of mass. or even in the robot any more. This has exciting possibilities in the field of robots made of lions.
  • I now believe that prayers CAN be answered.
  • If we all recall the remote controlled cockroaches, I guess this is V1.1+
  • Nothing new (Score:3, Informative)

    by jjq ( 589527 ) on Saturday August 06, 2005 @07:40AM (#13257336)
    See, for instance, http://jp.physoc.org/cgi/content/full/517/3/631 [physoc.org] a paper from 1999 with the title "Galvanic vestibular stimulation: new uses for an old tool" Best,
    • all I see are giant pixels moving around the screen!

      seriously that video is 256x144 15.00fps.. is it from 1995?!
  • by Saggi ( 462624 ) on Saturday August 06, 2005 @07:52AM (#13257356) Homepage
    It has been known for some time that electrical currents send to the muscles may cause you to move them. In this way you may control the motion directly, not only by throwing someone off balance, but actually make each individual body part bend.

    There's a (crazy?) artist who has a show, where he do this. Once he danced a synchronized dance, with an industrial robot. Other times he has benne "dancing" to the response times of the internet (lag).

    Now this technology has been explored to see if people can be remotely operated. This could be used to allow people in the field to operate on a patient, remotely controlled by a doctor. Now the doctor is controlling the person in the other end in the same way. Here sensors read the electrical current in his muscles as he moves his hands.

    So far the sensibility to do surgery is not possible, but major movement like moving an arm or closing a hand has been successful.

    Others have already mentioned the possibility of remote sex. Here your partner can control your arms and hands in the same way as you may control his or hers...
    • Others have already mentioned the possibility of remote sex. Here your partner can control your arms and hands in the same way as you may control his or hers...
      The mind boggles. Does this mean that, in the future, you could potentially be charged with indecent assault on someone you have not even met? A remote sex service that gives the punter the ability to really control the actions of the model?
    • STELARC!!!!! Steeeellllaaaaaarrrrcc!!
    • STELARC! [va.com.au] Steeeellllllaaaaaarrrrccc!!

      Dang, why didn't I preview the first time?
    • This could be used to allow people in the field to operate on a patient, remotely controlled by a doctor ... Others have already mentioned the possibility of remote sex...

      See "The Day the Icicle Works Closed", Frederik Pohl, 1959.

      Quick summary: it's about a world where people rent out their bodies to tourists. Unlike the tech from the article, though, they don't sit like a prisoner inside their bodies while they're being remote-controlled. It does mention remote sex, though...

    • In this way you may control the motion directly, not only by throwing someone off balance, but actually make each individual body part bend.

      Yeah, a friend and I used to do this with an electronic barbeque ignition. You could find all sorts of points on the body to stick it and click it, resulting in a muscle twitch. We would compete to see who could get the most movement.

      (We were bored working at an animation company waiting for our Amiga 4000 to render test frames).

      Anyways, while that was cool, this is a
  • by ScentCone ( 795499 ) on Saturday August 06, 2005 @07:52AM (#13257359)
    Just watch people as they come down the concourse and try to pass the Cinnabon store... you get exactly the same glazed-eye, vectored walking behavior, and no headset, other than the ubiquitous iPod. Of course, the Japanese approach is carb-free.
  • Demon Seed [imdb.com]

    Come on, what kind of geeks are you? :) The world's most powerful computer wants to transfer its intelligence into a human life, so he traps his creator's wife into the ultimate X10 house, and brings in a remotely controllable man to impregnate her. The movie is 30 years old, but Koontz updated the book in 2003 IIRC to bring the concepts and capabilities up2date. Once you read it, you'll feel compelled to change the addressable name of your voice-activated home automation system to "Alfred." Its a
  • ...on thier remotely controlled imitation human.

    I want to know how well it handles stairs.
  • This just puts a whole new spin on that real life pacman game they play in new york
  • "This research is taking a totally different approach to the more usual studies into robot technologies of the future, which relate to symbiotic relationships with humans. Traditionally, robots have been designed to give practical support to human activities and ..., whereas the "Parasite Human" [as they are calling it] is being posited as a robot which gives lateral support to human activity through the senses."

    It's worth pointing out that it's bloody difficult to translate, given some of the expressions
  • And there is any interresting non-evil usage for such a device ?
  • Really, it would be cool. Two people each with a remote control to their opponent's thingy. First one to fall over loses.
  • by Elbows ( 208758 ) on Saturday August 06, 2005 @10:09AM (#13257731)
    Despite what the summary would imply, this device doesn't take over your body and completely control your movements. I was at SIGGRAPH and tried it out -- it just throws off your sense of balance, making it hard to walk in a straight line. The effect isn't strong enough to make you fall down, and you could probably learn to compensate for it pretty quickly if you tried.

    The effect is good enough for video games, though -- as part of the demo they put you in front of a driving sim, and use the device to simulate the centripetal force when you go around corners. It was pretty cool.

    For most people, it seemed to be painless, but after a little while my skin started to sting where the electrodes where attached.
    • I was there, and I tried it.

      I have a fair amount of experience throwing off my vestibular canals and ignoring them (pilot, flew aerobatics on the competition circuit for a few years). I tried to walk in a straight line while the device was trying to have me do otherwise. It was *extremely* difficult, but not impossible.

      The feeling of lateral acelleration (where none was actually present) was very convincing.

      I also thought this was one of the cooler things in the emerging technologies section at siggraph.
  • If the units were smaller and automated, they could prevent prison escapes. Whenever a prisoner leaves a certain area, it would direct him back or force him to stop walking.

    Then the ACLU complains.
  • ...until it comes with a MUTE button.
  • I envisioned this sort of things being used for far far future battlefield applications. For example, a high altitude drone with IR sensors could guide a squad through a jungle to their target by buzzing the right or left side of their suits - much shorter radio transmissions than having to say "now he's moving south". With practice you could train soldiers to do a broken field sprint through a (friendly) minefield with gentle buzzes telling them where to step. With sensitive enough sensors you could (th
  • by fygment ( 444210 ) on Saturday August 06, 2005 @10:48AM (#13257895)
    ... wherein after a ruling of guilty, a small device is implanted in your head. It does wonderful things. A GPS connection keeps authorities aware of where you are. Should you deviate from the terms of your sentence, your balance can be immediately impaired making you incapable of coherent movement e.g. escape, resistance, etc.

    Although a recent development, there's still time to get prototypes out to existing cases say, Martha Stewart or suspected terrorists (nothing makes bomb-making trickier than a lack of balance induced long range by powerful shortwave random radio bursts). Of course, this could stimulate a resurgence of the tin-foil hat market.

    What is it with the Japanese and remote control of things? Years ago there was an experiment where they controlled cockroach movement via implants. Frankly, there is something vaguely horrifying about the video despite, or perhaps because of, the girl's giggling.
  • Japanese research is showing an interesting or disturbing trend. This article was only about cockroach control [wireheading.com]. The real goal is now more apparent.
  • Doesn't it seem odd to anyone else that this information is coming from Forbes?

    I am not your remote-controlled consumer! I am a MAN! *zzzap* must. buy. new car.
  • I saw it and kind of refused to try it. I'm not sure there has been thorough testing for long term side effects. Maybe it's safe, maybe it's not.

    I will say, it's pretty amazing to see people vear off to one side while walking. It's really interesting to see more than one person at a time wear these - syncronized stumbling.

  • I tried it at SIGGraph last week and here is teh deal. As others mentioned, it only changes your sense of gravity, it does actually control how or where you walk. But with the change in gravity, your stubble in one direction or the other.

    Where this really has an application is in video games and other immersive environments. They had a demo with a large screen race track where you could feel the centripetal force during the turns.

    But the skin contact for the electrical stimulation is not ideal. In the r
  • by rubberbando ( 784342 ) on Saturday August 06, 2005 @12:08PM (#13258236)
    Thats what they need to make using this technology.

    Put a gyroscope (or heck a simple level would probably work) inside a helmet as a balance sensor and have the electric nodes stimulate the opposite side that the drunk tilts toward.

    That way, the drunk can keep his/her balance as they walk home. :P
  • I tried it (Score:3, Interesting)

    by exp(pi*sqrt(163)) ( 613870 ) on Saturday August 06, 2005 @01:36PM (#13258703) Journal
    I wasn't impressed. It does give a vague impression of being off balance but it didn't have a very strong effect and it wasn't very directional. When I tried their racing game demo I felt nothing that was in any way coordinated with what was happening in the game. It did give me a vague feeling of motion sickness which continued after I had removed the device. The electrodes also felt unpleasant though the other people I tried it with didn't feel this.
  • Large deviations?? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by startleman ( 567255 )
    I am a Ph.D. student at the University of British Columbia, in Vancouver, Canada. I actually do research using GVS. Here's links to some of our research (Pubmed). GVS 1, [nih.gov]
    GVS 2 [nih.gov]
    GVS 3 [nih.gov]
    (disclosure: I am Carlsen on the papers :)). What troubles me is that the magnitude of the deviations is so large from the video. We showed that when walking in an open environment (e.g. like in the video), deviations due to GVS (with eyes open) is VERY small (~10 cm over a 3m distance). Even with eyes closed, the magnitude of
  • I saw it at SIGGRAPH and asked one of the researchers what kind of electrical signal was used. He said it was simply a low current D.C. signal between two electrodes behind the ear. The apparratus was built into a pair of hollowed earphones that contained a radio receiver and battery. The controller looked like a stock RC one with a little joy stick to move people left or right.

    I didn't ask if the polarity of the D.C. current matters (+ above -, or vice versa), but I think it just stimulates one ear or the
  • I just got back from Siggraph, and I had a chance to try the system out. Indeed it did seem to be one of the most popular things to check out at Siggraph. I suppose it helped that as soon as people experienced it, they often busted out laughing.

    Anyway, the experience consisted of putting on these modified headphones (speakers were removed; electrodes were added behind the ears), wearing the remote-control pack, and waiting for someone to twist the joystick. When that happened, it felt like the floor was

Nothing succeeds like the appearance of success. -- Christopher Lascl