Missing a distant loved one? Send them a robotic hug! Scientists develop a VR app that lets you see, feel and hear via a ROBOT from another continent in real time

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  • Scientists can now take you anywhere in the world ‘in the body of a robot’
  • Users wearing VR masks and hand controllers can control the robot’s movements
  • It allows real-time interaction with people from other continents via robots

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With more travel restrictions in danger, scientists can now take you ‘in the body of a robot’ anywhere in the world to visit your loved ones.

CyberSelves, a University of Sheffield spin-out firm, has created an app that gives you a robot’s view through a VR headset and handheld motion controller.

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‘Telepresence’ technology lets people see what the robot sees, hear what the robot hears, feel what the robot feels and move around in their bodies via the Internet.

According to experts, it can be used to help people meet and hug relatives, locate tourist attractions, deliver healthcare and assess hazardous environments.

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Sheffield spin-out ANA Avatar is one of only two British finalists in the XPRIZE global robotics competition.

The winning company, to be decided next year, will receive the lion’s share of the $8 million (£6 million) prize pot to further develop its technology.

Users see what the robot sees and control the robot with their body movements. The system works with ‘any robot located anywhere in the world’

How does this work?

  1. Human uses Cyberselves’ Teleport app on their VR headset (with handheld motion controller) or phone
  2. The robot responds to the motion of the user’s controllers and motion sensors via the cloud in real time
  3. The user can see, hear and feel through the robot, even if he is in another continent
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The CyberSelves app, called Teleport, can be used with any commercial VR headset, or via a browser on a computer, and is compatible with many robots.

For example, in video demonstrations, CyberSelf uses Paper, a robot from Japanese tech company SoftBank, and Tiago of Spanish manufacturer PAL Robotics.

Daniel Camilleri, co-founder of CyberSelves, said, ‘Our Teleport app makes remote operation of robots powerfully effective and functionally simple.

‘With a smart phone, browser or VR headset, the user can remote control any robot in a way that is comfortable for the human body.’

Camilleri, 28, used technology to attend her grandmother’s birthday party in Malta, more than 1,000 miles away.

“I was at a conference in Lisbon, but with my headset on, I could go to Malta, say happy birthday to my grandmother, hug her, and attend the festivities,” he said. Time,

The University of Sheffield's spinout CyberSelves developed technology to enable people to move themselves in the bodies of robots located anywhere in the world

The University of Sheffield’s spinout CyberSelves developed technology to enable people to move themselves in the bodies of robots located anywhere in the world

Robot capable of delivering needle-free vaccination shots

A Canadian startup has simplified the process of obtaining a COVID-19 vaccine with a robot that injects a shot directly into a muscle without the use of a needle.

The developers of the Kobi robot, designed at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, say the droid successfully performed the first autonomous robotic intramuscular injection.

Coby relies on a high-pressure jet of serum that passes through an opening the width of a human hair in the skin.

Using LiDAR sensors, the same technology employed by autonomous vehicles to map the road, Kobi creates a model of the patient’s body and uses AI-based software to determine the optimal site for injection.

Read more: Robot capable of delivering needle-free vaccination shots

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According to CyberSelves, long distance relationship between human and robot is possible through cloud.

Humans can only use their smartphone instead of a VR headset, but the latter provides a much more immersive experience.

“The ability to access telepresence through an Internet browser will make the technology even more accessible and open up more possibilities for its use,” said Dr. Michael Szolosi, Chief Operating Officer, CyberSelves.

CyberSelf researchers have also developed Animus, a ‘universal language for robots’ that allows the Teleport app to be licensed for use ‘with any robot in the world’.

As well as being able to hug relatives, it allows human operators to perform tasks remotely safely in hazardous environments.

Such applications range from nuclear deactivation to bomb disposal, offshore wind generation and search and rescue operations.

Another option is more efficient and personalized healthcare, allowing specialists to meet with patients in different countries.

Tony Prescott, professor of cognitive robotics and director of research at CyberSelves, previously told the BBC: ‘Doctors may be hundreds of miles away, it may be some specialist who wants to see a patient and they may be in New York.

‘They just need to put on a VR headset and they can be in Sheffield to see this patient.’

CyberSelves was established in 2018 and went out in March 2020, about a week before the UK was locked-down due to COVID.

Sheffield spin-out ANA Avatar is one of only two British finalists in the XPRIZE global robotics competition

Sheffield spin-out ANA Avatar is one of only two British finalists in the XPRIZE global robotics competition

A CyberSelf researcher demonstrates the technology around a robot, although thanks to the cloud, the robot mimics the actions of a human when there is a distance of thousands of miles between them

A CyberSelf researcher demonstrates the technology around a robot, although thanks to the cloud, the robot mimics the actions of a human when there is a distance of thousands of miles between them

As it happened, the pandemic gave the company a chance to demonstrate the importance of its technology as international travel became restricted.

Dr Sozolosi said, “Telepresence robots have the potential to help us address the many challenges facing us around the world, especially in light of the recent COVID pandemic.”

‘With international travel severely limited or not possible for many people, telepresence robots could be used to enable people to travel and explore places and communicate with each other securely.

‘It can mean, for example,…

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