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The Reality of Robot Surrogates

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Walt Disney Studios' Surrogates

Titanium and fluid robots operate under the mental control of the people they impersonate in Walt Disney Studios' "Surrogates."

Credit: Stephen Vaughan / Touchstone Pictures

Telepresence technology has a long way to go before people can perform everyday duties with robotic avatars. Present-day telepresence interfaces consist of joysticks, wireless Internet links, video cameras, and audio through which people control robots. A NextGen Research study anticipates a booming market for domestic telepresence systems in the next five years. Telepresence is the most sensible choice for security and surveillance robots, according to study project manager Larry Fisher.

Some contemporary telepresence machines are designed for functions outside of personal use, such as a robot that is controlled by a remote doctor via a joystick and secure Internet link to treat patients with stroke symptoms in 31 Michigan hospitals.

Science fiction movies often portray robotic control through a direct connection to the human brain, and there is research underway to create and perfect brain-machine interfaces so that people can control robots by thought. Neuroscientists learned in the late 1990s that implanting electrodes in animals' brains and connecting them to computers made it possible to decode their intent. University of Florida researchers Jose Principe and Justin Sanchez are working on an interface that uses the motor cortex to trigger actions not related to movement.

From IEEE Spectrum
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Abstracts Copyright © 2009 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


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