Is telepresence the next big thing in robotics? Will telepresence robots revolutionize work, manufacturing, energy production, medicine, space exploration, and other facets of modern life? Or is it just all hype?

See below a compilation of opinions from interviews I did and from other sources. Then tell us what you think in the comment section at the bottom of the page.

"Manual labor could easily be done without leaving your home ... One region of the world could export the specialized skills it has. Anywhere."
—Marvin Minsky, MIT professor, in his 1980 telepresence essay

"Telepresence is vastly easier to do than AI is, so remotely controlling a robot -- be it to visit a remote location or do surgery -- will mature much sooner than autonomous robots will."
—Rob Enderle, principal analyst, Enderle Group

"After 100 years of advances in communications, where we discovered how to transmit text, voice, images, why not try to transmit presence?"
—Trevor Blackwell, founder and CEO of Anybots

"It made me realize that the telepresence experience -- you actually can have these robotic avatars, then your consciousness is injected into the vehicle, into this other form of existence. It was really quite profound."
—James Cameron, movie director, about piloting a robotic submersible into the shipwreck of Titanic, in a TED talk in Long Beach, Calif., early this year

"Whatever hugs do for people, I'm quite sure telehugs won't do it."
—Hubert Dreyfus, philosopher at the University of California, Berkeley, in The Robot in the Garden: Telerobotics and Telepistemology in the Age of the Internet

"All of these [robotic telepresence] products are just begging me to kick them over."
—Lou Mazzucchelli, an expert in video teleconferencing, in this New York Times article

The Conversation (0)

The Bionic-Hand Arms Race

The prosthetics industry is too focused on high-tech limbs that are complicated, costly, and often impractical

12 min read
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A photograph of a young woman with brown eyes and neck length hair dyed rose gold sits at a white table. In one hand she holds a carbon fiber robotic arm and hand. Her other arm ends near her elbow. Her short sleeve shirt has a pattern on it of illustrated hands.

The author, Britt Young, holding her Ottobock bebionic bionic arm.

Gabriela Hasbun. Makeup: Maria Nguyen for MAC cosmetics; Hair: Joan Laqui for Living Proof
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In Jules Verne’s 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon, members of the fictitious Baltimore Gun Club, all disabled Civil War veterans, restlessly search for a new enemy to conquer. They had spent the war innovating new, deadlier weaponry. By the war’s end, with “not quite one arm between four persons, and exactly two legs between six,” these self-taught amputee-weaponsmiths decide to repurpose their skills toward a new projectile: a rocket ship.

The story of the Baltimore Gun Club propelling themselves to the moon is about the extraordinary masculine power of the veteran, who doesn’t simply “overcome” his disability; he derives power and ambition from it. Their “crutches, wooden legs, artificial arms, steel hooks, caoutchouc [rubber] jaws, silver craniums [and] platinum noses” don’t play leading roles in their personalities—they are merely tools on their bodies. These piecemeal men are unlikely crusaders of invention with an even more unlikely mission. And yet who better to design the next great leap in technology than men remade by technology themselves?

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