HR Strange But True!
October 28, 2005

Associated Press reporter Yuri Kageyama gives a first-hand account of trying out a new techonology that just might make employee motivation a moot point one of these days: remote-control of humans.

"Prepare to be remotely controlled," Kageyama writes. "I was."

She visited the Nippon Telegraph & Telephone Corp., which says it's developing the techonology with an eye toward making video games more realistic. But Kageyama wonders if it could be put to other uses.

At NTT's research center in Atsugi, Japan, scientists put a special headset on her cranium and sent a very low-voltage electric current from the back of her ears through her head--either from left to right or right to left, depending on which way they moved a joystick.

"I felt a mysterious, irresistible urge to start walking to the right whenever the researcher turned the switch to the right," Kageyama writes. "I was convinced--mistakenly--that this was the only way to maintain my balance." She called the experience "unnerving and exhausting,"

The technology is called galvanic vestibular stimulation. Essentially, according to Kageyama, "electricity messes with the delicate nerves inside the ear that help maintain balance."

NTT says it has friendly uses in mind for the technology. For instance, if the sensation of movement can be captured for playback, then people can better understand what a ballet dancer or an Olympian gymnast is doing, which in turn could become handy in teaching such skills.

And it may also help people dodge oncoming cars or direct a rescue worker in a dark tunnel, NTT researchers say. They maintain that the point is not to control people against their will.

Source: Associated Press, via MSNBC

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