Oculus Rift-Based System Brings True Immersion to Telepresence Robots
Remote presence robots, as the name implies, act as your stand-in at a distant location, letting you move around and see and hear through a robotic surrogate. Space agencies, researchers, and the military have developed high-end telepresence systems that offer an immersive experience, but these units can cost millions of dollars. Consumer telepresence robots (like the Double or Beam), on the other hand, cost much less but can’t create a sense of immersion—you’re staring at a video feed on a computer screen, after all.
Now a team of roboticists at the University of Pennsylvania is using affordable sensors and actuators and virtual reality technologies like Oculus Rift to build a platform that offers the same capabilities of a high-end telepresence system at a reasonable cost. DORA (Dexterous Observational Roving Automaton) attempts to bring true immersion to teleoperated robots, by precisely tracking the motion of your head in all six degrees of freedom and then duplicating those motions on a real robot moving around the real world. Their goal is making the experience so immersive that, while operating the robot at a remote place, you’ll forget that you’re not actually there.