YouMe has launched a new service it’s touting as next generation gaming – the controlling of real people in real time.
Founder Dominic Holland (that’s right, the guy who sells Facebook FanPagesand who’s never been afraid of a scandal) says YouMe has been in development since September 2008, and has had a private alpha run successfully from late 2009. A public beta release of YouMe will be available mid-2010.
To be honest I don’t buy it as a gaming solution though. Rather, for me it’s an interesting insight into how new labour markets might be created in future.
Let me explain.
How Does It Work?
YouMe allows subscribers to control real world people by sending real time requests delivered to that users mobile phone for them to carry out or deny; these users are known as “You’s”. Each of the users who are carrying out the requests are known as “Me’s”. The Me’s are equipped with live streaming video and audio recording equipment.
You’s put out a call to have some action performed and put a price on that action.
The ‘me’ is paid a percentage of the fee charged of the ‘you’s for each request. The ‘you’s are also charged for either a timed billing or monthly subscription to getaccess to the live ‘me’ video/audio feed library.
Payment will be made via a Youme branded debit card. This is also used for instant payments should the you’s request the me’s to spend any money. As for the hardware to be carried by Me’s, YouMe plans to provide that at a once-off fee for the me’s.
It’s kind of Justin.tv (when Justin was running around recording 24/7) meets Aardvark meets Avatar in a bizarre game of human control and market economics.
When asked whether there were any limitation on what a You could instruct a Me to do, Holland said:
“There is a TOS we are yet to release publicly, although generally speaking the only requests which are not permitted are those which would cause the me to break the law, put themselves or another person in harm’s way, or engage in sexual activity. “
I can see some use cases which seems really interesting. This could be the start of a true temporary/mobile workforce, where anyone can make themselves available to perform some micro-task.
Imagine, for instance, engaging a Me, who is near your post office box, to grab your mail and bring it to you. If you’re a Me in the area, why not do it and make a couple of extra bucks, especially if you’re going that way?
You could even have chains of Me’s perform actions to break up an otherwise one-person job into micro-chunks of labour. For instance, have one Me agree to drop the mail to you and have another agree to come and pick up the mail to take back to the post office.
Also, there’s the potential for scaling up the value of your work, as a Me. So taking the case of the mail pickup, you might be able push out the fact you’re travelling to that particular building form the Post Office Box and get further requests to pick up other tenants in the building’s mail as well. One trip from the Post Office Box to a building could be worth multiple payments.
These are simple examples but I think you get the point.
Then again, I can’t help but think that the audio and video might turn this into a voyeuristic game of virtual bullying. For sure there’ll be people who will pay enough money just to watch some poor Me to do something humiliating, just for kicks.
So, What Will It Be?
No doubt there are a bunch of other use cases and examples of how something like this could be used or abused, but just from these examples alone it’s clear that YouMe raises more questions than Holland has probably considered and definitely more than Holland can answer by himself. It’s also clear he still has a lot of work to do to get this thing up and running as planned but that doesn’t diminish how interesting this is as an idea worthy of discussion.
So, in my opinion YouMe should give up on its ambitions to be the next generation of gaming and, instead, should focus on if/how they might be able to revolutionise labour markets. On a side note, this is incredibly interesting as a foreshadowing of the radical changes the mobile web might enable over the coming years.
And no matter what you think of Holland and his ventures, you’ve got to applaud someone who’s consistently willing to push the envelope.
YouMe is currently accepting applications for both You’s and Me’s to participate in the beta launch at http://youme.domsnetwork.com/