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Fusion: A Collaborative Robotic Telepresence Parasite That Lives on Your Back

August 23, 2018 | Telepresence Options


Story and images by IEEE Spectrum

A robot perched behind you can see what you see and control both your arms

Most of the telepresence robots that you can buy are appealing because they offer you some sort of mobile agency--like, the ability to remotely drive yourself around. Robots like these are great if you want to, say, find yourself an elephant, but not all that great if you want to help other people out through collaborative tasks that require physical interaction. Collaboration, especially instruction, often depends on the physical act of one person showing another person how to do something, and even if your telepresence robot has an arm or two, it may not be at all intuitive for a remote user have effective direct interactions.

At Keio University in Japan, roboticists have developed a new kind of telepresence robot that's designed to (as literally as possible) allow you to remotely inhabit the body of someone else in order to assist them with manipulation tasks. (A similar idea, the Tele-Actor, was conceived by roboticist and artist Ken Goldberg and colleagues from UC Berkeley.) The Keio researchers call their system Fusion, and it lives on someone's back, allowing you to peak over their shoulder and use a second pair of arms to either show them how tasks are done, or even to physically move their limbs for them.

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