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We just had an out-of-body experience with this robot-Oculus project

Mat Smith, @thatmatsmith
October 8, 2014
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It's an unusual experience for a weekday afternoon: I stare up to see myself, staring up. I'm strapped into an Oculus Rift VR headset, which is both controlling (and streaming from) cameras atop a 1.5ft robot roaming around my feet. This robot on wheels is composed of segments that hold a stereo camera, storage, the "brains" and, importantly, a wireless internet connection to stream dual camera feeds to a nearby PC -- as well as receive movement instructions. The effect, courtesy of high-latency motion feedback from the Rift, is that when I turn to the right, or look upwards, the robot does exactly the same thing, with a motorized joint connected to the camera module matching my gaze.

Gallery: Oculus Rift and remote-controlled robot offer a proper out of body experience | 4 Photos

Better still, I could control it with a games controller: One analog stick commanded front and back, while a second turned the little stack of electronics around. This adds an unusual in-game effect to the process, although you're simply streaming a view from your immediate vicinity. It's a surprisingly cool effect, but it's easy to imagine this kind of setup used for remote monitoring, or even a damn fancy telepresence call. Imagine combining this Oculus Rift view with something like SoftBank's Pepper robot and, well, things could get a little weird.

At CEATEC 2014 in Japan, the robot (which didn't have a name when I visited) is hidden away from the imposing booths of Fujitsu and Toyota. It's part of a stand showcasing entries for a Japan-based engineering and design prize, Gugen 2014. (In fact, last year's Gugen winner was the low-cost prosthetic, Handie, which you can hear more about here.)

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