Are you Beaming?

Robothespian, used as a beaming avatar (Photo: Tim Weyrich, UCL)

It’s a common problem…you’re somewhere and you want to be somewhere else. Remote workers deal with this issue all the time, and so does the rest of the world. However video conferencing is still not really there when it comes to getting the virtual to replicate reality.

Enter beaming technology. It allows you to tuck your children in from a thousand miles away or chat to a client from the other side of the world.

Beaming technology is defined as:

digitally transporting a representation of yourself to a distant place, where you can interact with the people there as if you were there. This is achieved through a combination of virtual reality and teleoperator systems. The visitor to the remote place (the destination) is represented there ideally by a physical robot.

The idea has been developed by Computer scientists at UCL and the University of Barcelona as part of the BEAMING project with recent results published in PLOS ONE journal last week. The team refer to it as a form of augmented reality, rather than virtual reality. In beaming the robot or avatar interacts with real people in a real place, it’s not another SecondLife. It has the potential to transform video conferencing and possibly even revolutionise the way we carry out international business. The BBC news article on beaming offers more suggestions for how the technology could be used including improving morale of military forces through allowing them to speak to love ones and, the not so positive use of ‘virtual crime’.

Professor Mandayam Srinivasan, author of the paper from the UCL Department of Computer Science and MIT, said: “Beaming is a step beyond approaches such as video conferencing which do not give participants the physical sensation of being in the same shared space, and certainly not the physical capability to actually carry out actions in that space.

OK, so it’s already been said…but “beam me up Scotty!”