Whether they’re RC Cars spinning around in your driveway, or NASA’s Rovers crossing a Martian landscape millions of miles away, remote controlled robotics are nothing new. But imagine what scientists could discover if the rovers allowed them to experience Mars as if they were really there. For the first time, a team of researchers at Keio University’s Tachi Lab in Tokyo have invented a system that lets a human operator feel what a remote controlled robot is touching.
The TELESAR V is the fifth generation of TELExistence Surrogate Anthropomorphic Robots created by Prof. Susumu Tachi, who came up with the idea for telexistence back in 1980. He proposes that telexistence is a system that would let people have “a highly realistic sensation of existence in a remote place without any actual travel.” That is, a robot like TELESAR V could be somewhere like the top of Mt. Everest, while its human controller is somewhere else safe and warm and probably not exhausted, but able to experience the same sensations as the TELESAR V.
While, as advanced as TELESAR V is, we still have a way to go before Prof. Tachi’s dream is realized. That said, the system is pretty amazing as it stands. According to the Tachi Lab website:
With human-like movements in the upper body, arm and hands in TELESAR V, and ability to see, hear, feel the haptic sensation at the same time in a different location, enables the operator to experience the out-of-body illusion.
The person controlling TELESAR V wears a virtual reality headset and gloves so they can ‘see’ whatever the robot sees. When they move their arms, the robot moves its arms. Of course, the reason why TELESAR V is such a huge step is that when the robot’s fingers touch an object the operator can ‘feel’ the shape of the object.
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