Imagine a planet inhabited by thousands of robots and communicate with each other through avatars it might sound crazy. Isaac Asimov, in his novel ‘The Naked Sun’, created a world where people sent their tech duos, in this case holograms, to meet in a certain place; in the same style mark zuckerberg with the avatars in the metaverse.
Now, who would not want to be able to visit the Empire State in New York, or the Burj Khalifa in Dubai without leaving their city, and instead send a robot so that it can see what is on display there. Or, even being able to show affection to the instructor of the tourist plan. This all sounds like a technological fantasy, but iCub can make it happen.
“Feeling and moving in a place without being in it, this is the main objective of the iCub robot’s new advanced teleexistence system also called the iCub3 avatar system”, say the iCub3 developers of the Italian Institute of Technology (IIT) based in Genoa.
iCub is a humanoid robot looking like a child, slightly larger than its predecessors, weighing 33 kg and just over a meter. ICub3 weighs 52 kg and is 1.25 meters long. Created by this Italian technological center and a consortium of several European universities.
It can walk, sit, and even move on all fours. As a social robot, his face is designed to be able to reproduce human facial expressions.
The current development is the result of research carried out by a team led by Daniel Pucci, principal investigator of the Artificial and Mechanical Intelligence Laboratory (AMI).
Your goal is get humanoid robots that can act as avatars, robotic bodies that act on behalf of humans without replacing them, but allowing them to be where they can’t. Visiting an exhibition, for example, although many other uses are expected.
What functions and applications does iCub3 have
“We believe that this research direction has enormous potential in many fields,” Pucci explains. “On the one hand, the current pandemic has taught us that advanced telepresence systems can very quickly become necessary in different fields, such as healthcare and logistics. On the other hand, avatars could enable people with severe physical disabilities to work and perform tasks in the real world through the robotic body. This may be an evolution of rehabilitation and prosthetic technologies.”
The capabilities of the iCub3 were demonstrated through a tourist visit. An executive in Genoa, at the IIT headquarters, “visited” the Italian Pavilion during the 17th edition of the Venice Biennale, 300 km away. In fact, it was this new version of the humanoid robot that toured the exhibition. The human manages the robot through a basic fiber connectionwith only a few milliseconds of delay.
“Researchers have shown that the system transmits the operator’s movements, gestures, voice and facial expressions to the robot’s avatar, and receives visual, auditory and tactile feedback,” according to the IIT.
In other words, the motionless “tourist” looked through the eyes of a robotwalked on foot and played with his hand, which had five fingers that recreated human joints. And he also listened and spoke through his avatar.
During the demonstration, the system iFeel tracked the body movements of the operator, who was transferred to the iCub3 in Venice. The robot moves like its user in Genoa, even in their expressions, down to the “eye blinks and movements”, which the avatar “reproduces with amazing fidelity”.
Whoever controlled the robot could smile, talk and shake hands with the guide in Venice. ANDwhile the latter hugged the robot, the genoa operator felt it thanks to the iFeel suit. Instructors and users can also talk through the android.
“This is the first time that a system with all these characteristics using a humanoid robot with legs for distance tourism, so that the human operator can feel and experience what is happening in the place where the avatar is.”
This system is a prototype and can continue to be developed “to be applied in different situations, from disaster response to healthcare, and into the metaverse as well.” as Pucci concludes.