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You can remote-control a real person in the Faroe Islands

Ever wanted to remote control a person?

Well now you can, through series of remote tours currently being conducted by the tourist board of the Faroe Islands. You don’t even need an account. Just show up at their website and click on the little controller, and they’ll walk around while you see what they do.

I saw the process for myself last night. Is it cute? Is it creepy? Yes. Yes, it is.

The introductory video is disarmingly wholesome, with director Guðrið Højgaard giving an appropriately solemn explanation of the background. The islands sensibly shut down on the 12th of March in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, and the country is reportedly now free of the virus.

But with international travel still a terrible idea, the tourism board found itself in a bit of a state right at the start of the season. Rather than create more traditional tour videos, they decided to reprogramme a person’s brain for our amusement, in a terrible experiment that surely heralds the tragic final epoch of human society.

There are some quality jumpers on display, mind.

That’s not very nice.

Participants are shown a live video feed from a helmet-mounted camera as the tour guide walks around, or sometimes steers a boat, or even a helicopter. Over the course of about an hour, viewers will take minute-long turns to ‘control’ the guide remotely with simple directional instructions, plus “run” and “jump” buttons. It is a cute idea and also somehow deeply sinister. It’s a bit like those old tv phone in games from when you were a kid, but you might see a nice bird and some rivers and learn something instead of watching Hugo the troll ignore your instructions and smack into a train.

Alas, I have not seized control so far, as I met a full queue every time. But I did get to watch one live. The interface unfortunately blocks part of the screen, but the guide was a great sport, dispensing a regular stream of trivia and thoughts about the local area, history and wildlife during what must be a very distracting and frustrating way to run a tour. They even ran and jumped up some stony stairs, something any reasonable viewer would forgive them for refusing. “This is actually the perfect weather for a jog”, they volleyed at one point after someone did insist on hammering that run button. Solid “nice try m8” vibes there.

They’re pretty and pleasant tours, if you’re into that classic rainy and windswept North Atlantic feel. They’ve uploaded recordings of several past tours, and as far as I can tell, so far none of the guides have been forced to hurl themselves into a ravine or run around in a small circle for the full hour. They’re all playing it wrong!

The hint of intimacy about it feels surprisingly cosy.

You can have a go for yourself on the Remote Tourism website, and watch a selection of finished tours and some more information on the Visit Faroe Islands site. And to quote their own lovely sign off:

“We hope that visiting our remote islands through the eyes and body of a local can bring you joy and inspiration during these challenging times – and we, of course, hope to welcome you in person once you are free to travel again.”

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