We rocked up to Virtual Umbrella‘s ‘VR in a Bar’ event with the intention of trying out some new virtual reality games and having a few drinks. Little did we know we’d be seeing – and trying on – the apocalyptic future of mankind.
Designer Yifei Chai has made a glove that uses electrodes to stimulate your muscles without your input (like a kind of ominous Slendertone), which means that the person wearing the other glove can move your hand by moving theirs. And there’s pretty much nothing you can do about it.
Yifei told me he was inspired by the ideas of witchcraft and possession – which somewhat explains the creepy-as-hell trailer:
Amazingly, having watched that, I and a queue of other people were still dying to try Pretender Motion out for ourselves. The upwards motion didn’t work so well on me but the downwards motion was ridiculously good.
Here’s a slightly rubbish video of me trying it – it was filmed on a phone in the basement of a bar, as we’d daftly assumed we were there to try VR games rather than film the earliest indications of the downfall of humanity.
As you can tell, the downward motion was a bit painful! How effective it is depends on how well the electrodes are matched to your muscles, so if it’s not quite working you just tweak it a bit. I tried it again later, which was better and thankfully less painful, but still weird as hell.
Yifei told me he’s tested the system on dead flesh (from a pig rather than a person, I hasten to add) and it still works. Which leads to all sorts of apocalyptic conclusions. In the future, will we put dead people in Pretender Motion suits and let them march themselves to the morgue?
If so, it won’t be anytime soon: the tech is only ready for arms and hands at the moment because walking requires a whole load of insanely complicated muscle adjustments.
It’s easy to imagine all the horrible and scary implications of body-controlling technology like this, but I’m trying to look on the bright side: one day, I’ll be able to buy a leotard that can make me flawlessly execute the Single Ladies dance. And I’ll be all over that.
Main image © iStock/Nastco