Complex Made Simple

Telepresence virtually changing business, society, by adding a personal “touch”

Scientists are now making virtual feel like the real thing: Meet telepresence, digital gloves, surrogates, holographic meetings and more....

When the user can see their virtual hand being touched and can feel the haptic sensation at the same time, they are more likely to believe the virtual body is theirs A $10 million ANA Avatar XPRIZE competition launched to“transport a human’s sense, actions and presence to a remote location in real time the ‘Flex-N-Feel’ glove is being designed to give couples in long-distance relationships a way to hold hands, hug, and even massage each other over a video call

Augmented reality (AR) came to add a new dimension to Virtual Reality (VR).

Now Telepresence is here, adding a touchy…feely aspect to anything from business meetings, to travel, parenthood, and more.

Collaborative Telepresence

One of Top 10 Emerging Technologies 2019 from the World Economic Forum (WEF) was collaborative telepresence. 

“Imagine a group of people in different parts of the world smoothly interacting as if they were physically together, down to being able to feel one another’s touch,” said WEF about the technology.

The components that will enable such “collaborative telepresence” could transform how we work and play altogether.

Medical providers could remotely treat patients as if in the same room. 

Friends and families will spend an evening or weekend around the house digitally hugging loved ones, or tour a new city holding “digitally gloved” hands. 

This is possible as more telecom companies launch 5G networks that can handle huger streams of data from advanced sensor arrays without lag times. 

Read more: Governments and vendor community need to collaborate to bring Smart Cities to life

How does the technology work?

The connection between the real person and their virtual avatar is called “embodiment”. A strong sense of embodiment when using VR means your virtual body feels like your own biological body.

Immersive visuals in VR trick the user into believing they are elsewhere, such as atop Mount Everest

In VR, haptic devices simulate physical sensations that are triggered when avatars interact with virtual objects. There are devices that can alter an avatar’s weight distribution or aerodynamics to mimic what is happening in the virtual environment. 

When the user can see their virtual hand being touched and can feel the haptic sensation at the same time, they are more likely to believe the virtual body is theirs.  

This VR mask that can simulate the sense of smell using aroma capsules.

Haptic technology

Innovators are perfecting technologies that enable people to physically interact with remote environments, including haptic sensors that make it possible to feel what their robotic avatars touch. 

Every time you feel your mobile vibrate in your pocket, you’re interacting with “haptic” technology.

Students in TAFE SA's Certificate III Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration program are using Lenovo Mirage Solo virtual reality headsets in elective classes teaching the safe use of CO2, ammonia and hydrocarbons in refrigeration. 

The XPRIZE Foundation has launched the $10 million ANA Avatar XPRIZE competition (sponsored by All Nippon Airways) to kick-start technologies that will “transport a human’s sense, actions and presence to a remote location in real-time, leading to a more connected world”. 

Read more: Artificial Intelligence’s place in the classroom is a no brainer

Holographic conferencing

Using new technology created by a European firm claiming to have invented the first holographic meeting platform, people from different sides of the globe can put on virtual reality headsets and get together in a computer-generated 3D world.  

Daddy digitally holding his baby born

Using video conferencing and experimental, tactile technology now allows long-distance parents and newborns to “feel the love”.

The touch-sensitive digital glove, so-called ‘Flex-N-Feel’ glove is being designed to give couples in long-distance relationships a way to hold hands, hug, and even massage each other over a video call.

It works by lining the palms of a set of gloves with tiny sensors connected to micro-controllers that pass on the bend and pressure of the second half of the remotely located pair, passing the signal over the same wifi connection that carries the couple’s visual video call, allowing o physically feel the contours and movements of each other’s hands. 

Read Exclusive: Businesses can "talk" to your brain – literally!

Getting weirder: Surrogates

https://interestingengineering.com/this-mask-lets-you-send-a-surrogate-version-of-yourself-to-meetings-you-cant-attend

Human Uber lets you hire somebody (surrogate) to go to a meeting for you with an iPad strapped to their face so you can see and hear everything. 

AKA, the Chameleon Mask is described as ‘a telepresence system that displays a remote user’s face on another user’s face’. 

Source: Sway

The mask allows your surrogate to communicate with your friends and colleagues with body language as well as verbally. 

“If someone can’t be physically present to give a lecture or talk, a surrogate body can host the presenter's face and deliver a compelling talk even without being there,” InterestingEngineering, said.