I just recently read a fascinating article about the progress of true augmented reality through the invention of personal avatars. These personal avatars are robots that are controlled by a user through motion capture technology. What is truly amazing about these personal avatars are how they can be controlled from any point around the world, as long as there is an established connection between the user and the device. The BBC article I linked to demonstrates this via a video, showing a scientist in Spain controlling a robot in London with one-to-one movement.
The article focuses heavily on what could be the legal ramifications of this technology, saying how no countries have in place laws for dealing with sexual assault by a robot. While this is a fair point, I can’t help but feel it is some sort of extremely dark joke. I can just imagine a headline like this on the Onion “Vice-Presidential Candidate Violated by Personal Avatar – Changes Stance on Abortion.”
Instead of focusing on the possible awful ramifications of a few people having exploitative technology, it would be nice if people could instead focus on the amazing possibilities of this science instead.
For instance, personal avatars – if they reach a high enough level of precision – could be used by medical professionals. Say you have a critical heart condition requiring surgery but there are no qualified doctors in your area. Instead of wasting valuable time trying to airlift the patient to a different hospital, a doctor could just take control of their personal avatar and perform the operation from a different hospital.
Another major use of personal avatars could be in wish fulfillment. Imagine for a second that you are, tragically, paralyzed from the waste down but you have always had dreams of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro (you were highly adventurous). Most likely, this goal would be impossible; however, via a personal avatar you could still have the experience of climbing the mountain with a few slight alterations to the sensors on your legs.
Essentially, there are innumerable ways that this technology could benefit humanity as a whole. Global businessmen could plug into avatars to cut down on travel time allowing on more time with their families, while simultaneously lessening the dangers of prolonged air travel; politicians could use avatars to appear at different functions and conferences worldwide; people without the money to travel could even partake in virtual getaways.
Basically, if you can’t tell, I am extremely excited about this technology… and not just because it’s the same technology from the Bruce Willis movie Surrogates.