With the magic of virtual reality, it's easier than ever to find out what it would be like to see out of someone else's eyes, but for the full effect you have to mirror your movements. What if you could actually control the other person though? It's actually already possible. Hello, Avatar.
In this being-another-human simulator developed by Yifei Chai at Imperial College London, the person doing the controlling wears an Oculus Rift, and is carefully watched by a Kinect. Meanwhile, the controllee is wired up with electronic stimulators than can spur the muscles to action, and a head-mounted cam that streams to the Rift. When the controller looks down and moves an arm, the Kinect pipes the data to the stimulators and he sees his surrogate make the same move, from the surrogate's point of view. It sounds equal parts creepy and awesome.
The system is pretty limited as is; it's a simple proof of concept. There's some considerable lag between the command and the response, and so far the whole set up is only sophisticated enough to control the movement of arms. Still, it's easy to see the awesome but also kind of horrifying endgame for this technology. A lot of mediocre sci-fi movies are finally poised to come true. Living vicariously is about to get a lot more high tech. [New Scientist]