Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Give yourself a robot body at long distance


Virtual reality came up during a faculty seminar today.

A colleague lamented that there is now an online dating service for those wanting long distance relationships. By "long distance" I mean international. The relationship would take place entirely in virtual reality. "People can create perfect avatars, idealized versions of themselves or idealized to what the other person wants."

That might soon be taken to another level with robot bodies. That's the plan of tech mogul and early Google investor, Scott Hassan. His idea is to send your video image to a flatscreen monitor mounted on two legs ending in wheels. It's based on his video conferencing tool called Beam. It's basically like FaceTime or Skype but this added dimension allows the caller to not only be seen but to have a body with which to act out rudimentary functions. Edward Snowden used a similar system in one of his appearances.

Is it still an "appearance" if it's virtual? If it's your robot stand-in? All questions for the future.

Hassan certainly has a robotics pedigree. He developed the PR2 that has already cleaned dog waste from yards, poured both beer and lattes, and as I noticed last year, make pancakes.

The robot bodies, such as they are, are not capable of much right now. They move about on their wheels, following whomever you've called. They can interact with their environments on basic levels. But there is no reason why all of this can't or won't be advanced and enhanced in the coming years. Instead of a spindly, two leg structure we might soon have chiseled frames to hide our more embonpoint features.

Imagine it though. "Beaming yourself" into the robot body of your choosing. After all, if you have the opportunity to create a virtual relationship involving bodies to your own customization and without all the egregious hassle of real life, why not?

I'm sure others see things differently (those faculty members certainly do) but I wonder if the world's naysayers have had enough relationship pain to make a fully informed decision.


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