Omnipresenz lets armchair explorers control real human avatars

Traveling has gotten increasingly accessible thanks to budget airlines and services like Airbnb or Couchsurfing. But, if you'd still rather do some armchair exploration, and you've already seen most of what Street View can offer, then this Indiegogo campaign might tickle your virtual wanderlust. The Barcelona-based project -- called Omnipresenz -- wants to give you the power to control a human avatar. With a camera-equipped helmet, your avatar feeds you real-time video and audio as they walk around town. You can also instruct them to complete tasks as they go, through the interface you can see below the fold. If you're feeling benevolent, you can ask them to do something nice for others -- such as buy food for a stray dog, or give a stranger some flowers. Before that happens though, the service's users will have to vote on it first and raise funds to get it done.

Pledging €10 ($12) on Indiegogo will give you two hours of access to the system per week for a month, while €30 ($37) will give you four hours per week, assuming you're not too late to nab one of those limited edition reward tiers. There are special, slightly more expensive options that come with something extra, such as the €40 ($49) one that sends you on a treasure hunt, solving riddles and finding clues while your avatar does all the footwork.

It's the most expensive tiers that caught our eye, though, because by the looks of it, Omnipresenz is also selling virtual boyfriend-girlfriend experiences for a price. A €100 ($124) pledge promises you a romantic two-hour dinner with your avatar, while for €220 ($273), you can get the "deepest possible experience" with him/her wherein "you can be a little kinky" -- whatever being "a little kinky" means.

That said, since you're dealing with a real human being and not a robot or an RPG character, your avatar can decline requests he finds highly inappropriate. Some avatars could be more open-minded than others, but you absolutely cannot ask them to do anything against the law -- the administrators will wield their banhammer if you persist. The Omnipresenz team hopes to raise €33,000 ($41,000) to launch the project's beta phase in February April 2015*. Take note that while only Barcelona-based avatars will be available during beta, you can sign up as a customer wherever you are. If successful, or if the campaign raises more money, the team plans to place avatars in other metropolises around the globe, including New York, Paris, Tokyo and Hong Kong.

Update: The project lead reached out and told us the beta phase will actually begin in April 2015, if the campaign reaches its goal.