The Telesar V Robot Avatar

Wired has an article about a robot that can be communicated with like an avatar – it mimics a user’s movements and transmits visual, auditory and even sensory information back to the user. Here’s a video of this robot in action:

From Wired:

The Telesar V can deliver a remote experience straight to its operator, transmitting sight, sound and touch data using a series of sensors and a 3D head-mounted display. The robot’s operator wears a 3D display helmet, which relays the robot’s entire field of view. A set of headphones transmit what the robot can hear…

With the Telesar V robot, for instance, you can actually feel the shape and temperature of objects, as well as surface unevenness like that of the bumps on the tops of LEGO blocks…

Some nifty telepresence robots — similar to telexistence, but less immersive — are already available in the U.S. The Anybots’ QB Robot has a webcam in its “head,” relaying visual information to its operator while displaying an image of the person at the helm on a small display underneath the camera. Almost Segway-esque in appearance, the QB is a two-wheeled apparatus controlled remotely via desktop. Though at $15,000 a pop, it’s designed more for corporations who need to check in on remote offices than the average consumer.

As far as movement goes, the Telesar V has 17 degrees of freedom in the body, 8 in the head and 7 in the arm joints (which is the same as a human). The hands have 15 degrees of freedom, which is a good amount less than the roughly 30 degrees of freedom a normal human hand has (and some other robotic hands emulate), but enough to allow the robot to easily manipulate objects.

How useful will these robots be in the future? It’s hard to say. I’m sure there are people who work in dangerous conditions who’d much rather be in a control room – we already see this with Predator and Reaper drones replacing piloted aircraft. Maybe once the technology is affordable, we’ll see robots replacing humans for things like bomb disposal and hazardous chemical jobs as well?

Another possibility mentioned in the article is space exploration, although I question how much a humanoid robot could get done in space. Maybe at some point it’ll be possible to have remote labs on Mars or the moon operated by robot avatars? I think that level of sophistication would probably be overkill, but who knows? Trying to accurately predict the future, especially the march of technology, is a great way to feel really dumb.

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