The First Brilliant Uber Existence

hngt_a @Uber Existence Tokyo
5 min readMar 1, 2021
“Don Quijote” on the edge of Tokyo

I am writing about my first action of Uber Existence, which was not long ago. I will never forget the brilliant experience of the day.

I initially worked part-time at Uber Eats until spring. I felt like I was a machine operated by Uber’s algorithm, just moving to the location indicated by the app and driven by rewards. But that wasn’t bad. Instead, it was more fun than any of my previous part-time jobs.

Just before that, there was news that the state of emergency of COVID-19 was lifted in late May, and Uber Existence was launched in Tokyo as well.

I felt that I had no choice but to do this, so I immediately registered as an actor from the official website. Then, in a few days, I received a dedicated gear consisted of a cap with a camera, a speaker, and a unique mask.

And finally, on June 5, I was working for the first time. I equipped the gear, turned the app online in the local area, and waited for dozens of minutes. Then, the request has arrived. I was a little nervous, but I took the plunge. After testing the connection of the app with the user, the first action has finally begun. The user speaks from the speaker attached to the mouth, so it is almost impossible to say from myself.

It was near a familiar train station, but the user moved my neck and looked around. Every time I walked a little, he was rechecking the surroundings. It feels like I am coming for the first time, even though it should be a place I know well. His movement of interest in each object made me feel like I was groping for this city as if a stranger.

After doing such a thing for a while, one of the users said, “For the time being, go to the busy area,” so I decided to walk to the downtown center. The users were not one person but a duo, and while I was on the move, they were taking a break from operating me and chatting. The situation that the drivers were going to the destination without driving made me feel like I was driving as an AI for an autonomous vehicle.

First contact

The city’s busiest street has a large “Don Quijote,” a grocery store commonly called “Donki.” The user then said, “I want to buy something at Donki,” and entered it. Picked up what you want and head to the cash register. Even though it was a cash register, it was the first time to have a conversation with another person as an actor, so I was pretty nervous. First of all, I couldn't move to the cash register. I’m worried that I can't grasp when the user speaks to the cashier. After that moment of confusion, I took the plunge. Then, a voice came out from the speaker on the mouth, saying, “Please.” The cashier scanned the product smoothly, without any suspect. She listened to me being a little hard to hear, but it seemed like she did not doubt me. Although it was a bit awkward, I finished shopping smoothly. It was a really mysterious feeling that the conversation was automatically established just by moving the body aside. The feeling was that a different will control the atmosphere and my body even though the body should be mine. The thrill was coming.

However, there were some points of reflection. I tried to adjust my body to the flow of conversation, but it was quite complicated. It may be essential to get rid of “myself” more. I need to practice.

Talk to hooligans one after another.

From that time, the users were getting drunk. I felt their behavior was getting aggressive.

From then, They went to the red-light district in the back of Don Quijote. They and I were talking to the scary trout uncle who was there. It seemed that they were asking about the way, but the timing of leaving was late after the talk was over, so I had to taste the strange, awkward atmosphere. The conversation was automatic, but I felt like I bore the awkwardness of the mood.

It was getting deeper at night, but there were still many young people on the street. In it, I was talking to the young rappers. They seemed to be curious about this human being. “Is AI talking?” They were saying.

After that, I went to a convenience store, bought a highball, and drank it. Apparently, the users wanted to talk to people around, so they decided to “fuel” alcohol to my body.

Then, They and I spoke to the people who were drinking “StoZero,” a popular flavored strong highball, sitting on the ground in front of Don Quijote. I was afraid inwardly because I broke into the conversations with people I don’t usually get involved with. Still, they seemed to feel I am strange, but they were tolerant and talked a lot. They were students of a beauty college, and I knew it. No wonder it's dreadlocks. The conversation proceeded with tension and content that was completely different from my way. The atmosphere became more exciting than with my usual conversation ability. This was pretty good.

However, even in such a conversation, I was desperate to grasp how to make eye contact with them. I had to figure out what direction I should face depending on who was talking to me and who the users were talking to. I strongly remember the feeling of groove and the feeling of getting frank. Still, I could hardly remember what I was talking about.

Conversations with people who I wouldn’t usually talk with seemed to open up an unexpected side of the city I knew well.

There is a conflict of how to behave naturally while getting rid of myself in conversation. I still think about what to do if I meet these people when I’m not a Uber Existence actor. In other words, I still feel responsible for my body.

I noticed that I was an actor for 4 hours. All the while, adrenaline was coming out, and it seemed to be a blink of time. I was excited about the sensations as a part of this whole new existence.

Also, I will write about my impressions of the work I did in the past little by little. Thank you for reading until the end.