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HP Technology

Robotic Teleconferencing 97

Mike Elgan writes "Hewlett-Packard Labs unveiled to the press May 23 a system for teleconferencing with lifelike realism.Called the BiReality remote communication system, the project involves a remote-controlled robot on one end, and a total-immersion environment on the other, giving the user the ability to roam hallways, hold conversations and interact remotely through the robot."
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Robotic Teleconferencing

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  • by IO ERROR ( 128968 ) < minus cat> on Saturday May 24, 2003 @07:20AM (#6030202) Homepage Journal
    HP Fellow Norm Jouppi told HP World Magazine that the BiReality system prototype, now in its second version, is made with off-the-shelf parts, including two very fast Windows PCs, four cameras, a series of directional microphones and speakers.

    This prototype will crash even faster than the previous prototype! It crashes very fast!

    Which brings up another point. What if the robot is moving when Windows crashes? Will it STOP, or just display a STOP error while it keeps on rolling right into somebody?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 24, 2003 @08:57AM (#6030364)
      The robot is a complex system with many contingency plans. In the event of a system crash it would revert to a simple "Kill all humans" routine until the system can be brought back online.
  • by pphrdza ( 635063 ) on Saturday May 24, 2003 @07:21AM (#6030204)
    giving the user the ability to roam hallways, hold conversations and interact remotely through the robot.

    I donno - how long are the cables (visible in the pic)? Of course, being only the second version, with "off the shelf" parts, it looks pretty interesting.

  • doom? (Score:5, Funny)

    by romit_icarus ( 613431 ) on Saturday May 24, 2003 @07:22AM (#6030208) Journal environment on the other, giving the user the ability to roam hallways, hold conversations and interact remotely through the robot. Am I the only one who is thinking Doom??
  • by SRCR ( 671581 ) on Saturday May 24, 2003 @07:25AM (#6030217) Homepage
    This way I'll still be able to kick the other person in the groin even with teleconferencing.. This rulez
  • by jkrise ( 535370 ) on Saturday May 24, 2003 @07:28AM (#6030225) Journal
    And install them at the offices of His Billness, His Baldness, Rosen, Boies, etc. Only then will our computing experince become trustworthy.

    One worry though:
    "the BiReality system .. is made with..two very fast Windows PCs, four cameras, a series of directional microphones and speakers. "

    I can't locate even 1 Very Fast Windows PC yet. I'd need 4 dozens here. Anyone seen such a PC yet? Windows95 on a P4 2.4GHz maybe?
    • I can't locate even 1 Very Fast Windows PC yet. I'd need 4 dozens here. Anyone seen such a PC yet? asp []
      • Those aren't just garden-variety PCs. The comparison chart Faust7 is referencing is a high-end server chart.

        However: is this a MS cheerleader site? Because I don't see anything running any sort of Free/Open operating system. Just Windows 2K Datacenter and proprietary Unices.

        One wonders what would happen if a few of those high-end IBM Linux on Power4 hardware boxen were allowed to play. Vrooom...
    • You're looking at "Very Fast Windows PCs," not "Very Fast PCs." Big difference. One has Windows bottlenecking it down. These computers are Very Fast for Windows PCs, granted they could be faster with a barebone OS. Although some may consider it faster to use Windows because of lack-or-low driver support, for example graphic cards usually won't run as fast, granted some are faster.
    • If you had a bunch of them in a room, then you could "broadcast" to all of them at once and it would be like a bunch of Agent Smiths.
  • by Mossfoot ( 310128 ) on Saturday May 24, 2003 @07:32AM (#6030230) Homepage
    ... of that spiderlike mobile holoprojector used by Darth Sideous in The Phantom Menace?
    • Probably because your sidious-like boss could use it to walk into your cubicle even when he's on a trip to Japan...

      "Mmmmm, yeah. Mossfoot, I'm going to need you to come in Saturday. So if you could just go ahead and be here at nine, that'd be great. Beep beep."
      • The exact phrasing in the parent was:

        ...boss could use it to walk into your cubicle even when he's on a trip to Japan...

        Obvious meaning - boss flies to Japan, uses virtual reality suite in Japan and telepresence robot in office to walk into your cubicle.

        Alternative meaning - boss uses telepresence to make his trip to Japan. So there is no problem taking off the telepresence head set and having a walk round the office to see what the workers are up to, while he is "in Japan"

        I posted [] a link [] earlier.

  • Will tomorrow... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SharpFang ( 651121 ) on Saturday May 24, 2003 @07:35AM (#6030235) Homepage Journal
    ...a remote-controlled robot be build so you can "walk it" to the shop behind the corner, get your kid back home from school, go to work... Will two people never seeing each other send their robots to marry each other remotely? And then go to honeymoon, to Niagara Falls, to watch the views on monitors from home... Will a day come when leaving your house will be scarce and you'll be doing everything by controlling your robot? I don't really like this vision of future.
    • by evbergen ( 31483 ) on Saturday May 24, 2003 @08:00AM (#6030264) Homepage
      Of course, the next step would be to interlink robots in such a way that if one robot is observed by another, you see an image of the owner instead of the robot.

      At that point, it's only a tiny step away to skip the whole robot and camera business and to interact virtually only.

      Of course, I sincerely hope to be dead before this becomes the only practical way of being in contact with people.
    • by Bluesman ( 104513 ) on Saturday May 24, 2003 @08:39AM (#6030323) Homepage
      Yeah, and you just KNOW your girlfriend's robot would look a lot better than the real thing.

      When your robot is dating a "big boned, but attractive" robot, watch out.
      • Well, first you may have to decompile the code that's drawing her image and add in some mods=p I.E. use StretchBlt instead of BitBlt, and make an artifact cleaning algorythm (both the artifacts on her face, and to make her appear younger.)
    • How about yu and your wife go to Niagara Falls for your honeymoon, and stay there while you send your bot to work.

      That's more like it...

      Where do you see this whole "I'm going to force you to downgrade your experience of life" bit?
  • by fozzy(pro) ( 267441 ) on Saturday May 24, 2003 @07:36AM (#6030239)
    IT folks are often looked down in many companies due to the nature of computers breaking down and being "difficult" to use. Reducing the number of bussines trips seems like it is a way to make a few more enemies in the world.
  • 2 words (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 24, 2003 @07:39AM (#6030241)
    Beedee beedee.......
  • by mikeophile ( 647318 ) on Saturday May 24, 2003 @07:47AM (#6030248)
    This [], I think it might be the killer application of home robotics.
  • I sense... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    that half of these posts will concentrate on what OS those robots will be running instead of the applications and pure coolness of the robots.
  • by djupedal ( 584558 ) on Saturday May 24, 2003 @08:13AM (#6030275)
    To get HP some digital ink. Yesterday it was iron before that it was layoffs...last week it was how the 'merger' was complete (tell that to their distribution hubs)....week before that it was..well, you get the point.

    Must be a shareholder's meeting coming up. Otherwise, this armless overgrown lego with screens could be something from the '70s.
  • The picture creeps me out, because it reminds me very much of the oldest of the old, dilapidated robots at the "flesh fair" in Kubrick/Spielberg's "A.I." So this robot's ancestors will end up there... *shudder*
  • Nice timing... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 24, 2003 @08:16AM (#6030284)
    If this is ready for early adopter markets now, the timing is excellent: due to SARS, real presence in some parts of the world has become risky, which makes telepresence more attractive despite the initial cost of such a system.
  • by heretic108 ( 454817 ) on Saturday May 24, 2003 @08:28AM (#6030304)
    ...once the technology is refined and reliable:

    Break into a car, put the robot at the wheel, made up as realistically as possible to resemble a human, flip the bird at the highway patrol, and hey, it's the ultimate real life police chase, except for the part at the end where the driver usually gets hauled off in handcuffs.

    Especially good if your control feed is being repeated from a number of different locations and randomly phase-shifted, so as to throw off triangulation.

    Real-life GTA, anyone?
  • But... (Score:4, Funny)

    by Faust7 ( 314817 ) on Saturday May 24, 2003 @08:40AM (#6030324) Homepage
    a remote-controlled robot on one end,

    I already teleconference with my boss.
  • ...of the remotes described in Stanislaw Lem's Peace on Earth.

    The beginnings thereof, at least.
  • At last, I can attend meetings while having another important session on the toilet. But maybe I'll wait for the enhanced model with rotating razor blades. Then, I can show my colleagues what I really think of their work. And the best part is: I can blame it on Windows (those damn Internet Explorer vulnerabilities can be VERY dangerous, you know).
  • by PoisonousPhat ( 673225 ) <foblich.netscape@net> on Saturday May 24, 2003 @08:49AM (#6030343)
    Me and my dirty mind. I think HP, given the function and description of this project, should rename it to something other than "BiReality", unless they are pursuing a client base of alternative lifestyle teleconferencers.
  • Dot stupid (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Luguber123 ( 203502 )
    Concidering that half the dot com era's IT budget was spent on projectors and laser pens. I'm looking forward to see all the practical purposes of this ingenious machine. Is it possible to put it on hold or get it to bring coffe.

    What if the person on the other end does something clumsy, boy does that sound expensive!

    Is it at least possible to recycle it?
  • I know we're all on slashdot, and thus are geeks, but is it really necessary for the rest of the world to understand an article by saying "Through some technical video magic, the background of the robot, not the user, is displayed behind the user's head on the robot screens" instead of "The background of the robot's head is the background of the person in the robot's room, considering the background of the robot is displayed 360 degreese around the victims head?"

    I mean, come on! How stupid is the rest of t
  • What with SARS and everything the Doctors from here couldn't get to Singapore. With this thing you don't need to send them there to learn....... get the SG concern to buy the BiReality and hello, Liver Transplanting 101.
  • by iamdrscience ( 541136 ) on Saturday May 24, 2003 @09:02AM (#6030381) Homepage
    If I had access to this robot the _very first_ thing that I would do is make it kick out the jams and dance "the robot".
  • Oh ok (Score:3, Funny)

    by The-Bus ( 138060 ) on Saturday May 24, 2003 @09:03AM (#6030384)
    I had to RTFA. I was confused. I thought this had to do something with sending movies to Tom Servo and Crow.
  • Is it just me or... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by TyrranzzX ( 617713 )
    "I'm sorry I can't be here, but if you look to your left, you can see a big blue cube with a TV on it..."

    Why do it in reality when you can do it in VR? Personally, I'd prefer to have video conferencing in a modified version of counterstrike or planetside; if they piss me off they get shot, etc etc. Or if it's an actual conference with people attending and 1 or 2 people attending virtually, give them a big screen and some software to let them control it, and you're set.

    Although, you just know that th
    • That your boss would have to be the admin for the server running the teleconferencing. He might end up being the only one with a gun. More importantly, I think that we could look at a new low cost method of tourism, or virtual field trips for schools wealthy enough to get into the equipment to do a whole class (20+ students at one time). "Pay attention class, today we will be going to visit the Pyramids at Giza"
  • by madmarcel ( 610409 ) on Saturday May 24, 2003 @09:28AM (#6030429)
    Well...besides the obvious comments about the OS crashing...and the robot possibly rolling into/over someone :P
    (Obviously it would come to an immediate halt, but then IS powered by an eeevil micro$oft could go on a rampage, destroy buildings, search out it's maker, become part of the global computer defense network, go mad, develop an obsession with pinnochio, build an army of invincible shiny cyborgs, travel back in time, enslave humans and use them as :P

    Eh...anyway...I was going to say that that wobot in the pictures looks a bit unstable to me...kinda top heavy and suffering from middle-age bloat (spare me the windoze jokes! ;^)

    Nevermind crashing the OS, what if that (expensive?) machine keels over? properly test this...we need to place one small child and/or one happy dog in the vicinity of this robot. Stand back and make sure you're wearing a helmet (and probably steel-capped boots - mind your toeses folks :)

    Which reminds me:
    A couple of years ago I watched some video footage on "America's funniest home-videos" (or some clone of that god awful program) where a remote controlled (friendly looking) robot entered a room where a whole bunch of kids where playing with toys. Obviously there was a hidden camera filming the whole thing. The producers thought it would be funny to have the kids talk to/interact with their crappy robot.
    The robot was about the same size and shape as the one in the article, but instead of blue, it was completely red with a 'traditional' square robot head. (square eyes, mouth, antennas, the works :)

    Now here's the important bit:
    Much to the producers surprise (and delight) the children, upon seeing the robot enter the room, all started screaming and crying, and proceeded to assault the robot and pelt it with their toys!

    Now imagine your kids at home, playing with their toys...and in comes Wobby the wobot - with DADDY's HEAD! "Hel-lo chil-dren!" Aaaugh!

    Years of therapy...
  • I wish i had one, so I could use it to get my diploma - sorry - diploma folder, from graduation. Then I could still be sleeping. Or drinking ;)
  • by rodney dill ( 631059 ) on Saturday May 24, 2003 @09:41AM (#6030447) Journal
    Now Spammers can deliver their message to you in person. (without fear of personal reprisal). Not to mention to opportunity to sell more slick advertising space on the "robots" exterior.

    Our course I would reserve some space for my bumper sticker.

    My Robot can Kick Your Robot's A$$

  • They should send one of these to Mars instead of those silly tumbleweed things!

    Yea sure the lag would be horrible, but just get someone from efnet to operate it.
  • by raumdass ( 210351 ) on Saturday May 24, 2003 @09:43AM (#6030454)
    "It's just strange Johnson, one minute we were discussing the quarterly financials, and the next thing you know, he starts breakdancing and shouting 'You've been 0wned'".
  • to teleconference with me. Or just to annoy me and run into my office chair repeatedly. Note that the bathroom is also a popular destination.
  • Thats not a robot, the term is "waldo" .. the equivalent of "robotic arms" controlled from a joystick... just with a lot more feedback.
    • I was scanning thru the comments to see if anyone had mentioned "waldo" yet. An excellent SF novel exploring advanced waldo technology is Laura Mixon's "Proxies". I'm ready for a beanlink when the technology arrives!
  • How is this a vast improvement over video teleconferencing? You are still just looking at a picture of the person who's not there. So it can move around the room -- you're still not getting the true "presence" of a person in the room.

    Cool techno-gadgetry aside, I just don't see companies jumping on this thing. They're gonna stick with the cheap stuff already available, and when it's really important, they'll break down and buy a plane ticket.

    Boring, but true.

  • In what SciFi I read, such "robot" would be called the other person's "avatar". Mind you, there is no need for the other person. An avatar can represent a computer or some other (semi-)sentient being...
  • This could do wonders for these types of people. []
  • You can already do this with one of AIBO []'s consumer applications called AIBO Navigator []. It allows you to control AIBO with a joystick while seeing the world through his video camera. You can also send and receive audio through his stereo microphones and speaker.

    OK, OK, well, you do lose the immersive VR environment on the client side.... :-)

  • Sure, it might make it more "real" to the user, but I for one doubt that most people that will be on the interaction end of the robot won't exactly take to this realism.
  • As I explain in my essay [] about how telepresence will displace business air travel:

    Telepresence is not teleconferencing. The telepresence camera is under the control of the near end, not the far end. It can roam and see things it is not meant to see. It is a tool for bosses not workers. The location is laid open to the inspection of the visiting dignitary, while the presence itself reveals nothing of the near end.

  • Wasn't there an episode where Geordi used one of these to explore hazardous environments?
  • Now even McD jobs will be taken. Somebody can flip burgers and make change from 4000 miles away.

    Heck, if they learn to bullshit like an American manager, that can be done remotely from India and China also.

    What AI researchers fail to realize is that brains *are* cheap after all. With 2 billion starving persons on this earth, all we need is a remote proxy to tap into them, not an artificial brain. There is a surplus of real brains.

    And, humans are horny bastards, they will make more desparate people. We ar
  • Combine this with Honda's Asimo [] and one of these [] and I'm in.
  • <rant>

    "While it looks like what most people would describe as a 'robot,' it's not in the sense that it doesn't work automatically-it's controlled," said Jouppi in a statement. "It's no more a 'robot' than your car is a 'robot.'"

    Jeesh, it is a robot. Doesn't anyone remember that 'ROBOT' stands for Remotely Operated Body Of Tin? At least that is where the name came from.

    Honestly, where do you think the name came from?


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