Given the success of the contest, humanoid robots seen in the movie Avatar (set to spawn a number of sequels in the years to come) may soon step out of the screen and become a part of our everyday lives.
If realized, the remote-controlled “avatars” could replace fire fighters in dangerous rescue missions, provide care for the elderly, and find countless other applications that will only be limited by the human imagination.
“It’s a vision of the future where you don’t have to physically get on an airplane to go someplace,” said found of the XPrize Foundation Peter Diamandis. “I occupy the robots through my senses, so we can distribute expertise and capabilities where they are needed, almost instantaneously”.
While haptic suits appropriate for the challenge already exist, one of the main hurdles will be to make the “avatar” function at great distances. In fact, to receive the prize, participants will have to make their systems work at a distance of no less than 60 miles (or about 96.5 kilometres).
Furthermore, to qualify, the winning “avatar” must have the capacity to be controlled in real-time – without this crucial feature, most of the forecasted applications would have to be abandoned.
Needless to say, just because a contest was announced, it does not mean that we can start the clocks and wait for the first real-world “avatar” to grace our company.
This should be evident from the past XPrize endeavours which either failed or were simply recalled due to redundancy.
Having said that, Diamandis claims to be reasonably certain that remote-controlled humanoid robots will become widely available by the year 2032, at which point it will also become possible to not only control them, but to also upload your consciousness into them.
While the latter prediction is rather extravagant and fairly unlikely, its milder version is actually not that far out – the technology is mostly here, all we need is a focused push in the right direction.
Assuming the technology is not out of reach, it will be fascinating to see the consequences – both good and bad – of adopting real-world “avatars” to solve a variety of pressing human problems.