ANA unveils ambitious vision for telepresence

Telepresence robot
Telexistence’s Telesar V robot takes its cues from a human wearing a headset and manual control apparatus. The robot is an inspiration for the ANA Avatar Vision. (University of Tokyo / Tachi Lab)

All Nippon Airways’ newly announced sponsorship of a $10 million contest for real-life avatars is just one part of a grander vision that aims to break down barriers through robotic telepresence.

“We see ourselves not as an airplane operator, but as a company that aims to bridge the gaps between the different cultures that exist in our world,” Kevin Kajitani, assistant manager for ANA’s Digital Design Lab and Innovation Research, told GeekWire today. “And that’s where we see the avatars fitting in.”

The way Kajitani and his colleagues define them, avatars are robots that are remotely controlled by humans, enabling their operators to see, hear, feel and interact freely in a remote environment in real time.

Such systems already exist — one example is Japan’s touchy-feely Telesar V robot. ANA’s vision is aimed at facilitating a quantum leap in sophistication.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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