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Your Robotic Avatar Is Almost Ready

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Legs were not an asset on the Avatar XPrize course, so Seoul National University adapted by having its legged, human-size robot sit on top of a wheeled base.

Where virtual reality puts a human into a virtual environment, a robotic avatar brings a human into a physical environment, which could be in the next room or thousands of kilometers away.

Credit: Evan Ackerman

Robots are not ready for the real world. It's still an achievement for autonomous robots to merely survive in the real world, which is a long way from any kind of useful generalized autonomy. Under some fairly specific constraints, autonomous robots are starting to find a few valuable niches in semistructured environments, like offices and hospitals and warehouses. But when it comes to the unstructured nature of disaster areas or human interaction, or really any situation that requires innovation and creativity, autonomous robots are often at a loss.

For the foreseeable future, this means that humans are still necessary. It doesn't mean that humans must be physically present, however—just that a human is in the loop somewhere. And this creates an opportunity.

From IEEE Spectrum
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