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Augmented Reality Robot Provides Physical Sensations From Virtual Characters

February 12, 2013 | Telepresence Options

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By Extreme Tech

One of the most common tropes in science fiction is the ability to apply the image of a person over the frame of a robot, thus creating a visually identical copy of a human. Now, as Japanese startup Different Dimension Inc. (DDI) gears up to market a life-sized augmented reality robot, the world is one step closer to creating visual human doppelgangers.

In recent science fiction, such as Minority Report or the "I Dated a Robot" episode of Futurama, fictional technology is explored that showcases what it would be like to have either virtual reality mimic physical sensation, or a robot mimic reality in order to provide physical sensation. Different Dimensions is working on a system that combines a physical robot with an augmented reality headset in order to achieve that seemingly sci-fi goal.

The tech is eerily similar to that episode of Futurama. In the episode, Fry and company travel to the internet, where they discover a parody version of Napster that allows them to download the image of a celebrity and have it projected on a blank robot. Fry pirates Lucy Liu, and embarks on a journey of human-robot love. DDI's technology -- based on a 2006 project from Yokohama National University and the Japan Science and Technology Agency - requires the use of an augmented reality headset. The robot can't go out on dates, but the end result could be considered the early stages for the kind of advanced technology shown in that Futurama episode. The robot is wearing what is essentially a full-body green screen suit, and a virtual character is projected over the robot when you look through the glasses, while the surrounding environment is captured and displayed through a head-mounted camera.

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