A few short vignettes from a robotic future

Jacquelyn Ford Morie is an artist, scientist and educator working in the areas of immersive worlds, games and social networks. She served as technical lead for the $10 million Avatar XPRIZE. In this series of vignettes, Morie speculates on potential scenarios for an avatar-enabled world. For more about Morie and the evolution of avatars, check out this Fiction Science podcast.

By Jacquelyn Ford Morie

Scenario 1:
A trip with my mother

I haven’t seen my mother in 5 years. Today I am so excited because we have an outing planned. She has always loved exploring caves, and I have arranged for us to meet in a very amazing underground cave that is full of prehistoric paintings as well as incredible structures formed over millennia – sheets of cascading stone, spiky dendrites of stalagmites forking down from the ceiling, mazes of stalagmites we will have to wander through, taking 3D immersive souvenir images with our robot eyes. ROBOT EYES?

Oh — did I forget to mention that each of us will be having this experience through the recently formed RobotExcursions, Inc.?

I will be connected to a robot avatar that will allow me to pilot it, inhabit it, sense what it is seeing, but in a way that is very safe for me back in Kansas. My mom will likewise be inhabiting a different robotic avatar to which she is connected from where she is in Costa Rica, where she has been confined to a hospice center for the past six months. She has very little time left, and most of her physical capabilities are gone, but because of the new brain-computer interface techniques developed by REINC, she can be totally THERE in the robot, alongside me. We synchronize our start time and are transported to the cave, wonders all around us, not the least of which are our robotic selves, and the big hug I give her, long overdue!

Scenario 2:
I was raised by a robot parent

Every ounce of my being that felt hugs, warmth, concern and care came from this amazing parent. This was my day-to-day existence, like many, many others in this day and age. We had heard stories about a distant time when all children had biological parents only. That was another time and another way. My “robie” parent was all I knew, and I felt real love for this being.

From time to time, parenting experts, medical providers and storytellers would avatar into my robot parent – my caregiver – and perform more specified activities.

I never had boundaries that I was aware of. My “robie” made sure I was safe, even if I was miles away, riding my bike recklessly down a steep hill, or climbing a tree a smidgen too tall and frail.

A constant yet unobtrusive monitor. I felt safe enough that I could explore freely, without huge worries. Such consistency of parenting meant that a couple of generations now had few issues surrounding their upbringing, and therefore the overall mental health of the world had been raised.

These robot parents were trained by the best organic parents throughout time. It was true that there were significantly less people on the earth now – so these measures allowed for the richness of global diversity even with these reduced numbers. What humanity needed could be supplemented by these intelligent, super-functional, robotic beings.

Scenario 3:
Life in MegaCity

Living in a high rise non-descript apartment – where 90% of humanity now resides, I truly appreciate the ways we can teleport into a Tourobot™ or a Relaxabot™ and escape the humdrum for a while.

I don the Litegear™ system and instantly I am on a pristine beach in the South Pacific. Through my Avatar-bot, I can smell the ocean air and marvel in the soft touch of the breezes that caress my face. The turquoise of the water and brilliant white line of the crashing waves is so intense, unlike any colors seen in my apartment world.

A crab scuttles by, stops and gazes his strange eyes towards me. I can only marvel that such creatures once were common. Are there others visiting this place of wonder today? I start walking along the gentle line of foam where the waves dissolve back into the sand and contemplate how the world I live in could have possibly diverged from this place of pristine beauty. A shimmering shape approaches me. “Greetings, fellow Journeyer. Might I walk with you for a bit upon this shore?” I glance up and see myself reflected in this Avatar’s eyes. Why would I say no?

Read more: Avatars gain a real-life foothold

Copyright 2022, Jacquelyn Ford Morie. Republished with permission.