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.