Remote-controlled Real-life Avatars Soon A Reality

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Remote-controlled Real-life Avatars Soon A Reality
March 13, 2018

Realistic avatars could soon allow us to remotely see, hear, touch and interact with faraway locations. 

 

A new global competition is charging scientists, entrepreneurs and innovators with the task of creating a real-life robotic avatar by 2021. 

 

Launched by the XPrize Foundation, a non-profit organization that encourages technological innovation, the competition promises to award $10 million to the first team that can make the technology a reality in just four years. 

 

Previous XPrize competitions have been sponsored by Google, IBM and other companies, but the latest is sponsored by Japanese airline All Nippon Airways. 

 

The devices created as a result of the competition wouldn't be totally unlike the beings envisioned in the blockbuster 2009 film Avatar. 

 

Teams are charged with creating a multi-purpose avatar system that will enable users to remotely see, hear, touch and interact with physical environments and other people through an integrated robotic device, according to XPrize. 

 

The robot must be able to complete tasks that are up to 100km away. 

 

XPrize envisions that the robots will be used for a variety of real-world scenarios, including 'critical care and deploying immediate emergency response in natural disaster scenarios.'

 

They added that avatars would 'stretch the boundaries of what is possible, and maximize the impact of skill and knowledge-sharing.' 

 

'Our ability to physically experience another geographic location, or to provide on-the-ground assistance where needed, is limited by cost and the simple availability of time,' said XPrize founder Peter Diamandis in a statement. 

Teams have up until October 31 to enter the XPrize competition and it ends October 1, 2021

'The ANA Avatar XPRIZE can enable creation of an audacious alternative that could bypass these limitations allowing us to more rapidly and efficiently distribute skill and hands-on expertise to distant geographic locations where they are needed, bridging the gap between distance, time and cultures,' he added. 

 

XPrize said teams will be able to use a variety of existing technologies to develop the avatars, including virtual reality, artificial intelligence, haptics and robotics.  

 

Existing devices that are even remotely close to real-life robotic avatars are telepresence robots, which are basically an iPad on a stick with wheels.

 

The Chameleon Mask, also known as the 'Human Uber,' applies a similar concept to real-life avatars. 

 

It deploys 'surrogate people' who can go to events in the place of a remote user. 

 

For it to work, surrogates strap a touchscreen to their face, which the creators refer to as a 'mask,' that shows a real user's face on the display.  

The XPrize Foundation worked with Google on the Lunar XPrize competition, which was launched in 2007. They extended the deadline twice before ending it entirely in 2018
XPrize envisions that the robots will be used for a variety of real-world scenarios, including 'critical care and deploying immediate emergency response in natural disaster scenarios.'

 

Ultimately, XPrize is hoping the technology will be used to benefit humanity. 

 

'Any time we do an XPrize, we're always looking to generate a commercial appeal, because if we can create that breakthrough technology, we need the market to help adopt it, to get it to scale, and get the price down,' XPrize Foundation CEO Marcus Shingles told the Verge. 

 

Teams have up until October 31 to enter, while the competition ends October 1, 2021.  

 

The idea for an avatar XPrize competition was first conceived in 2016, as part of XPrize's conceptual incubator called Visioneers.

     

The avatar concept was qualified as 'ready for launch' by a group of 250 mentors. 

 

Ultimately, the Avatar XPrize aims to facilitate the creation of ‘avatars that you – the public will be able to use to travel anywhere, anytime, instantly.’ 

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