Haptic Telexistence & the future of Telesurgery

18 08 2007

My brother sent me an article today on one of the Emerging Technologies shown at Siggraph 2007 (He really has a knack for finding cool stuff on the net). It was an article on the concept of Haptic Telexistence, where your existence and interactions in remote places are represented by a mechanical object / real-life avatar.

An example of currently available telexistence technologies(without haptics) include NTU’s Virtual Petting which transmits the sense of touch over the Internet.

Researchers at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) explained, “A wireless jacket for chickens or other pets can be controlled with a computer and gives the animal the feeling of being touched by its owner…The next step would be to use the same concept to transmit hugs over the Internet.”

Haptic Telexistence takes it a step further with the ability to transmit not only stiffness but also temperature and texture. Here’s a quote from the article:

With conventional systems, we can only perceive the stiffness of an object. But with Haptic Telexistence, we can also perceive the exact shape of an object, and more natural and dexterous object manipulations become possible. This simplifies complex tasks such as telesurgery and 3D modeling.

Because this system can present properties such as texture and temperature, it will support dramatic improvements in human life. For example, not only will we be able to shake hands with people at remote locations but we will also be able to feel the warmth of their hands. While shopping on the web, we will be able to check the texture of an article before purchase.

This technology would definitely blur the boundaries between countries and “globalize” talent and skills even more. I wonder whether it’ll get to a point where an artist in China can paint multiple art pieces simultaneously; One in China where he physically is and another in England via an avatar. Talk about having an acupunturist based in China treat people from all over the world too.

Telesurgery however worries me because it is dealing with a delicate element called “life”. What would happen if the network crashes in the middle of the surgery or the wrong data gets transmitted? Just too risky for me. However, it’d be unrealistic to say that telesurgery would never pick up but instead, take a long time for people to accept especially in developed countries where a qualified human alternative is available. My guess is countries where this alternative is not available would be more willing to take their chances and be the first to adopt this technology.

According to the researchers from the University of Tokyo, they should be able to realize this concept in 10 years which is not very far away if you ask me. Time passes too fast these days.

Side note: Why does it always have to be the Japanese gah! They really rule the world of robotics.

Image credit: Siggraph 2007.

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6 responses

18 08 2007
Yee Hoong

I’m signing to RSS feed on your blog…. Wayyy too cooool for a geeky guy (whom Su Yuen ALWAYS claim it… >.< ) like me.
Muahaha

18 08 2007
Chern Jie

Wow!!! That’s soooo cool!

Damn, I wished I’m the one who designed it. Cool …

18 08 2007
bitbot

@Yee Hoong: Glad you like the stuff I’m writing! About the geek part, well I have no comment ^^;;;

@Chern Jie: You still can design it! I believe they are still in the process of designing how it’ll work. According to the article, they might need another 10 years to make it a reality

18 08 2007
Rammstein

You do realize what this means right? It mean in the future you can design GIANT HUMANOID ROBOTS, and control it like in the animes, without any buttons….That is the ultimate aim of the japanese. That’s why they are so good at it. They wanna have their revenge on America.

18 08 2007
bitbot

But why would you want the sense of touch and texture for a war machine? o_O It’d be more effective without the senses so that the person controlling the robot can’t get hurt / feel the pain.

19 08 2007
Rammstein

Don’t ask me, ask those anime ppl who make those animes….haha, but advances such as these will surely be used to train 21st century soldiers. They will have a sense of realism, but they can’t suffer permanent damage. Like an advanced version of paintball.

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