When we think about robots, our minds often conjure images of humanoid machines obediently following vocal commands. However, the future of robotics holds far more diverse possibilities, where robots can be controlled through various means, such as apps, text, sign language, and teleoperation.
Extended Reality (XR) is often seen as fully immersive digital worlds or digital assets seamlessly integrated into the real environment.
Now, envision a robot that can be controlled through a VR headset, meticulously tracking your every movement so it can replicate them. For instance, imagine you can’t recall whether you left a book on the kitchen shelf. Simply don the VR headset, and your teleoperated robot mirrors your actions as you walk to the kitchen, locate the book, and even move it to the living room table if desired.
Such a futuristic vision has been portrayed dramatically in movies like “Surrogates.” But even now, tangible progress is being made. There’s Reachy, a cutting-edge robot developed by Pollen Robotics, designed to be operated remotely by users wearing a VR headset and motion-tracked controllers. With this setup, the user’s head and hand movements are precisely mirrored by the robot, opening up a host of exciting possibilities.
Already, glimpses of this technology have emerged in various industries, with possible applications ranging from space flight to surgical procedures. As the technology continues to evolve and improve, it holds tremendous potential. The ultimate goal is to enable individuals to virtually “teleport” their presence to distant locations, possibly even to outer space in the future. Imagine a top surgeon in the USA performing a life-saving operation on a wounded soldier at the front lines or guiding a robot in a hospital located in another country. Or consider an athlete coaching a robot in real-time, with the robot accurately mirroring the athlete’s movements for skill acquisition and practice.
Of course, even with such advanced technology, physical constraints will persist. Nevertheless, the concept of telepresence robots represents a significant step forward in the development of XR and robotics, promising to reshape the way we interact with machines and transcend the boundaries of distance with experience.