Sunday, December 23, 2007

a glimpse of the videocall future

What will videoconferencing look like in a few years? Here's one scenario I've thought about...

I'd like to predict that in the near future we'll all have a remotely controlled robot in all our homes that we can use as our own persona, or body double. When it's placed in a remote location - a friend's house for example - we'll log into it remotely through the net and our own video face will show on the remote robot.

We will be linked to it. It will act as "us" on our command, moving about as we would in the remote surroundings. It will send images and sound back to us in a 3D process that would enable us to be there virtually.

We could move though the host room and sit by the grandchildren, perhaps reading a story to them (providing they are used to the concept and won't get freaked out!) Or we could sit on the sofa, or across the dinner table and join in the family conversation.

We could even hire one located at seminars, museums or trade shows and wander the floor looking around and interacting with the staff. This concept would make videoconferencing useful. It's being done already at a simpler level.

iRobot are doing this with their ConnectR, a virtual visiting robot due out 2008: has the Giraffe:

A primitive-looking robot called IvanAnywhere is a working solution:

UCLA Medical Center has had a robotic doctor since 2005:

Honda have their ASIMO robots jogging along at 6 km/hr and serving tea. You can imagine how effective this could be as a 2-way interface:

It's only a matter of years before this concept accelerates to a sophisticated level.
"By the end of 2010, we'd like to see these robots working at every street corner of the city," said Tomohiko Kawanabe of Honda's Fundamental Technology Research Center.

At the moment these processes are very primitive. The experience of being there would have to be developed further for it to work, but I'm sure that current research will have that done within the next five to ten years.

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