If you haven’t read any of my recent posts, I’ll fill you in quickly. Late last week I boarded a flight to Seoul, Korea to meet up with an engineer who specializes in robots. Victor – his alias for the purpose of this blog – has developed a technology that allows a “pilot” to operate a robot with their mind. Even more exciting is that the experience is so immersive that it actually feels like your consciousness has been transferred into the machine. Victor swears it’s a complete cross-over. Although I’m a skeptic at heart my own experiences today have come close to convincing me.
“The Bridge” is the area of the lab that serves as both the command centre and a diagnostics and monitoring station. All the physical operations of the drone or “body” take place in the back lot. Have you ever watched the 90’s television show “Robot Wars”? Well, the drone was inspired and modelled after the bot and early champion “Road Block” with saw and all.
Over the last couple of days Victor and team have made leaps and bounds. With Victor connected to the machine they first managed to move in small jumps and starts. Yesterday he managed to achieve full motor control and physical sensations in the sensors, he could even “feel” the wheels turn. The visual and audio systems all work as well. The team spent a lot of time calibrating the systems between short trial runs.
So far all of the systems are controllable accept for the saw. Nobody could get it to work.
Today everybody got a chance to take the drone – they named “Son of Road Block” – for a spin. I was the last to have the honours and it was worth the wait. What I experienced was truly life-altering.
Victor’s Head of Neuro-Technology – He wishes to be referred to as “Syupeo Seuta” – led me to “The Bridge” and sat me down. He fastened those cheese grater shaped restraints, much to my unease, and lowered the helmet or “haegol moja” they now refer to it as. “haegol moja” is Korean for “skull cap”. Syupeo Seuta told me to relax my mind, my body, and breath in deep. His voice was soothing… he reminded me of a tiny indian yoga instructor I know… The yoga instructor is a woman… it was a little freaky actually. My mind managed to relax once I managed to push the image of a 55-year-old Syupeo Seuta doing “Downward Dog” out of my head.
The experience was psychedelic. My first thought was, “Did they drug me?” Apparently my thought came through the drone’s speakers and everyone out on the lot had a good laugh, once the head mechanic Kwang-Sun translated it to them.
I can’t lie, the beginning of the transition was terrifying. I could feel my body slip away from me. It was like my entire body went numb. I couldn’t see, hear, taste or smell anything. I kept trying to touch the top of my mouth with my tongue and nothing was happening.
My vision started to return to me and all I could see where a storm of coloured pixels. It felt like I was trapped in a Windows 95 screensaver. My hearing started to return and all I could hear were gurgles that sounded far too smug to be gurgles. Apparently those gurgles were laughter. I could feel my shoulders and hips but not my arms or legs. I tried to roll my shoulders back and all I could hear was an engine revving up.
I tried to blink and all I could see was what I assumed was a camera shutter. My first identifiable visual emerged and I began to scream. I could see chain link fence racing straight at me. I tried to reach out with an arm and suddenly my view changed directions and I sped down the lot.
I can’t begin to describe exactly what I felt. Different physical impulses had different effects. At one point Syupeo Seuta – from inside “The Bridge” – caught a wiff of my body passing gas. At that same moment he heard the crew outside cheer out loud. Apparently my passing gas had activated the saw. Later on Victor explained to me that my accidental slip had provided them with enough information to properly calibrate the saw. Eureka… I suppose.
I raced around for what I felt was an eternity. The day was a long one. I am exhausted. I will explain more about what happened later. We are all heading out for a drink, except Victor, he wants to stay at the lab and calibrate the saw. I admire that man’s obsession.
– Bear Hunter