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Sony Officially Debuts Telepresence Blimp at SIGGRAPH: Face-to-Avatar

August 10, 2011 | Howard Lichtman
Sony officially premiered it's telepresence blimp at the SIGGRAPH conference in Vancouver, British Columbia this week.  The system which is called Face-to-Avatar consists of a floating blimp that can be piloted remotely from an internet connected PC.  The operator's face is projected onto the front of the blimp and an on-board microphone, speaker, and camera allow the operator to view and interact with remote people. 

Hiroaki Tobita, the blimp's designer and a researcher at the Sony Computer Laboratory, told the SIGGRAPH crowd: "We want cloud interface, not cloud computing,"

The blimp is the latest in a string a remotely piloted telepresence platforms that are primarily robots and allow face-to-face interaction with remote participants globally.  Potential uses of the platform include:
  • Telepresence Tourism - Logging into a telepresence platform located somewhere in the world and piloting it around to experience the destination in real-time.
  • Telepresence Security - The ability to monitor multiple remote locations and observe and question suspicious activity. 
  • Advertising - The ability for "brand representatives" to interact with consumers from a garish, branded, crowd-gathering telepresence blimp.
Right now the system is still a prototype and no word on when, or even if, Face-to-Avatar will become a commercially available offering.  The concept is, however, "out-of-the-bag" so don't be surprised if you encounter a knock-off floating around your neighborhood pitching the latest sugar water, alcoholic beverage, or gizmo. 

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