Telepresence - Big deal?

In the later chapters of Brooks "Flesh and Machine" comments about the
future for telepresence. He suggests exporting labor via internet. His
example is for elder care done in Japan by workers in the Philippines.
So where is telepresence now? Will telepresence be a big deal in the
future? Anyone up on current developments in the field?
--
Randy M. Dumse
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Reply to
RMDumse
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There is some info on google.
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Also, see iRobot ...
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You will notice that the packbots that iRobot sells to the military are camera equipped for remote surveillance.
More locally, I've equipped my RAD-hack platform, on which I'm testing various sensors and subsumption routines, with both zigbee for remote I/O, and also a wireless cam so I can watch what the robot is doing while sitting at my PC. Unfortunately, I've been a little caught up in other matters recently and progress has slowed, but I think this makes a nice test platform, where you can basically command the robot to do something, like drive into a wall, and then watch how the sensors and control routines deal with the problem. So maybe call this "soft-telepresence".
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Reply to
dan michaels
Wow, I didn't know Cisco saw this as such a hot market. Very interesting.
Yes, and some like Talon and Sword are packing real firepower. Better under human control than autonomous.
Yes, a nice new phrase. Oversight remotely.
There's another thread here by a "roboDNA" about remote driving. Seems he's doing something like Microsoft Robot Studio, but with a more direct route. It will be interesting to see if he replies and gives more details on what he's got. However, this looks to me like hard-telepresence.
I have a little RF Video Camera. It's about 1/2 inch on side. I was going to insert it into the front of my Mini Sumo, and show the video on an external monitor. Again, that fell to the "not enough hours in the day" problem.
My current use of telepresence is in the class I taught at UNI over the internet last spring. This spring I'm assisting in a new Computer Interfacing and Signal Processing class. I hope to also attend a DSP course in another department.
Last year I used PVX software. Polycom is one of the biggies in the Teleconferencing world. The software was good, but very problematic. Prone to lock ups and needing rebooting. It was also a resource hog. I ran on a 2.8GHz laptop, and barely had anything left over to open slides or see my notes.
This year, we're experimenting. Windows Live Messenger has come along very far, and is almost as good as PVX was last year.
But I am among the first to say, this is not a mature technology. Sound levels vary. Camera position control just isn't there. It's not like being a teacher in the room. When it is, then I can see this being a prefered way to teach. It has the advantage of being digital and can be captured.
I see a future with educational software being "rentable" and you being able to choose the best instructor for your needs, no matter where he(she) or you are physically located.
But in general I think I agree with Brooks on telepresence. It will be a big deal. A very big deal.
-- Randy M. Dumse
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Reply to
RMDumse
This is what I have too. All mine took to hook up was a 9v battery on the xmtr and hooking the receiver to an AV monitor. I actually had it on my hexapod Nico-6 that I sent to Larry Geib for Robothon 2006, but they apparently didn't have an AV monitor in the hall. Otherwise, you could see ahead from Nico's perspective, as he was walking around.
Also, George Matsuoka had an article in the first issue of Robot mag, a year ago winter 2005-6, about putting a web cam on his robot tank. In his case, he used a rabbit wifi server, plus wiport and USB cam on the tank, and controlled it via HTML script from his PC-wifi router. His solution is a lot more integrated than zigbee + separate wireless-cam, but also cost him about $500 for the electronics, plus plenty of setup and programming time. True telepresence will require the 2-way integrated solution, like this and what you discuss below.
I'm expecting to take a break from normal activities for a couple of years, if things work out, and when I get back into robotics, I expect all you guys will be doing T-P :). I imagine M$ will have this included in their Robotics Studio. I started playing with RF on my robots last year, and it's great stuff.
Reply to
dan michaels
How do you get the video signal reliably back to the receiver at all times? Don't you lose it behind certain barriers?
I made a remote controlled lawnmower I would drive from in front of the TV, but it was never safe because I could lose the video when it went behind a big tree. I tried several transceiver pairs in the 900 MHz and 1.2 GHz bands, and found none that would work reliably. I had hoped some inexpensive product would emerge that broadcast in numerous bands, with a receiver that searches the bands for the best signal, but I've seen nothing like that so far. Perhaps someone here has a pointer?
Mike Ross
Reply to
mike_l_rossREMOVE
I think has less to do with the transmitting band than with the power output of the transmitter and the quality of the receiver. There are some high-end microwave video transceivers that have 1+ mile (line of sight) range. I'd be very, very surprised if a little old tree bothered the signal all that much. However, this kind of rig will cost you -- a couple hundred bucks, easy. Try the covert wireless online outfits, and stay away from the low-end consumer stuff. There is a healthy demand for these types of tranceivers, so there is no real incentive to market something like this on the cheap.
-- Gordon
Reply to
Gordon McComb
That has an ominous sound to it... Inquiring minds want to know. If you aren't around, who am I supposed to have these long winded pendantic discussions I enjoy so much with? Not to detract from any of my other faithful correspondents here, but you would be missed.
Today was a heck of a frustrating day for telepresence for me.
First, I arranged for a live web broadcast of a physics colloquim at 4PM. I was able to log on and see the room set up, then, nothing. Email came 2 hours late. Cell phone calls went to voice mail. Nothing. Even IM failed everyone about start up time. A couple hours later, I got an email where I could watch the recording on the web, but the live part of it was long over.
Then this evening, I was supposed to sit in on a DSP class being taught for the first time at the university. Again, starting time I had a phone call. Then nothing. The laptop couldn't connect to the network. So I again missed out.
Telepresence may be a great idea, but it is in the beginning stages of functionality.
-- Randy M. Dumse
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Reply to
RMDumse
Regards your story as below, hopefully, you guys - or Bill.Gates - will have this all worked out by time 2 years come and go. Just a few technical problems, like any new endeavor :). From what I've heard about B.G's talk in Las vegas [wherever] last week, he wants to have his Vista OS in control of ALL your electronics needs 24-HOURS every day, and this means you guys hiding out on the range in east Texas too. The new OS'es are geared more towards multimedia - the big big thing now - so I should imagine wireless is in there too.
Another story. A couple of months ago I bought a new WinXP notebook. Did some shopping locally for a couple of weeks. Walked into Office Depot and they had 20 notebooks in there, all with "glossy" screens, all running DVD movies. Not one OS window or actual "work" application in sight. With the glossy screens, mainly what I saw where bright reflections of the overhead lights, and I could also read the signs on the back wall 50' away reflected in the screen. Not good.
Not too difficult to see what Office Depot thinks the market for notebooks is. Glorified $1000 DVD players.
Another story. I ended up buying the lowest end Compaq notebook I could find, with matte screen. I actually wanted it to do work on. I bought it online from the hp.com site, and would you believe it, it shipped by fedex from Kunshan in "red" china, near Shanghai. Turns out 100s of american companies have plants over there.
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That's where Carly Fiorina sent the jobs. Since everything in the notebook was already made over there, and labor is cheap, imagine how much greater the profit is than say for Dell, when the bits and pieces are separately shipped to texas for assembly by amercian wage-earners. Plus, I, and not hp, paid the $50 for shipping the assembled notebook to the US. So, HP wins on all accounts.
Also, regards my travel plans, nothing too ominous, just a minor change of venue. I've heard rumors they have internet all over the world now.
Reply to
dan michaels
In areas where humans cannot go, specifically deep ocean work, telepresence is becoming increasingly important. The company that I work for makes remote operated vehicles (ROV -
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and telerobotic manipulators
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and has been adding increasing intelligence to the vehicles. Our current ROV offering uses inertial sensors and doppler velocity loggers to either hold position and altitude above the seafloor (called Stationkeeping) or perform offset movements from a fixed position, with a resolution of several centimeters. It can perform these functions even when disturbed silt has made visibility drop to zero. The control system allows the operator to independently control forward/reverse and yaw, while keeping pitch and roll to a minimum, even when using the manipulator to pick up something weighing several hundred pounds.
These types of ROV systems are used for just about every task that takes place below the depth that divers can reach, most of which is related to the oil and gas industry, but we have done some work for research universities also. The types of jobs that I hear about most are drill rig support, pipelay touchdown monitoring, and pipe inspection.
The manipulators are hydraulic and extremely powerful and surprisingly responsive. The more expensive versions are controlled by moving a miniature version of the arm, called the master arm. The larger arm, the slave arm, matches the position of the master arm allowing simple and intuitive control.
-Robotguy
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RMDumse wrote:
Reply to
robotguy
That's awesome. This is exactly the sort of thing we're going to need to develop the Moon, both before astronauts get there, and even once a base is established (since going outside in a spacesuit is a lengthy procedure and exposes the astronaut to radiation, so they'll want to minimize that as much as possible). Of course when the operator is on Earth you have a several-second lag, but with the kind of smarts you guys are putting into your ROVs, and a bit of practice on the part of the operator, I don't think that'll be a big deal.
The first task I think is well-suited to a lunar ROV is bulldozing regolith to bury the habitat (either digging a trench first, or just heaping the regolith up on top of a habitat sitting on the surface). A layer a meter thick or so keeps out the radiation and also provides thermal insulation, keeping the inside nice and toasty. This should be pretty easy, don't you think?
But if you could also make teleoperated robots that could do simple maintenance tasks -- brushing dust off solar panels, plugging and unplugging connectors, moving equipment from here to there -- then this would be a HUGE benefit. So I'm very excited to hear that these things have moved out of the research lab and into serious commercial use, since that both indicates that they're real-world-ready, and also tends to drive further progress much faster.
Best, - Joe
Reply to
Joe Strout
Very interesting. You have quite the manipulators there. So far, all I have been able to effect remote distance is turning a camera on the Polycom unit so I can look around the room, but even that is very tedious.
What I would really like as an instructor (or even as a remote student) is the ability to "move my head around" or translated, be able to move the camera to different perspectives, like looking over a students shoulder, or moving to the other isle.
I'm afraid where I'd like to go will allow me to swing a camera around like a club and clunk students in their heads. Sensing the surroundings to avoid dangerous movements is something we rather take for granted, but are very difficult remotely.
Is there force feed back on your manipulators? or is it purely visual feedback? How difficult is it for an operator to learn to use that arm?
-- Randy M. Dumse
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Reply to
RMDumse
I have two Dells. The back of one says "Made in China". The back of the other says "Made in Mexico". Dell also has large assembly plants in Malaysia and Ireland. So I think your belief that Dell makes everything in Texas is mistaken, or at least outdated.
Last year I was working in Shanghai, and I tried to buy a Dell laptop and have it shipped directly from the plant in Shenzhen. They told me they couldn't do that, it had to ship to Texas, and then back to China. I didn't buy it.
Reply to
Bob
Offhand, were the 2 Dells you bought preassembled deals, or specialized orders? My compaq was specialized per my requirements, and it also took 2 weeks for them to put it together, and I did have to pay the freight from China. It's possible of course that Dell is assembling many of their boxes in MX or CN in order to keep up with the competition.
BTW, I did try shopping Dell online several times, but every time I came back to the website the options were all changed around and eventually I just gave up. BTW, all I wanted was a basic box, without all the wizzbangs, and the compaq was $300 or so less than the cheapest similar Dell.
Reply to
dan michaels
Yes, must be the same unit. I saw them today on Cyberguys site.
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They say 7/8" on a side.
When we first got it, we hooked it to Cocoa, the office Pomeranian. Watching things from a small dogs point of view can be a very disorienting sight. Further, she does all sorts of body motion dances, and it doesn't take long to get a sea sick feeling from watching.
In fact that's something else I remember from the class. When they took the remote camera and tried to position it for me to see something they were doing with their hands, or at their computer screens, I really did get a bit nosiated at times from the visual cues of the motion. Very unsettling and unexpected. Particularly if the guy holding the camera forgot what he was doing, and started swinging it around as he walked off. Whoa!
-- Randy M. Dumse
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Reply to
RMDumse
I bought 5 of the bottom end Dells for the class, since they didn't have enough in the department to go around. After class I got them back, slightly used, and sold them to family and friends. Unfortunately, one of them failed two months after I sold it to my step daughter. That was disappointing because they were out of warrantee. So I got her another Dell as a replacement, with a longer warrantee this time.
For simple things like web brousing, editing source, downloading as a terminal, these low end units seemed to do just fine.
My personal computer is a Sony VAIO. I try to buy at the front edge of technology, and keep it for 3 yrs before replacement. They usually last about that long. Again extended warrantee will run out a few weeks before the display goes out, by my experience.
-- Randy M. Dumse
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RMDumse
Huh, looking through the links, it seems clear to me, while telepresence is a well accepted idea, there aren't that many applications currently (as opposed to the teleconference market which is burgeoning already). I take it to mean this field is wide open.
Did quite a bit of reading ahead in my LabVIEW text last night. Seems they are big on web publishing. So I think I'm going to put an interface into my MiniSumo to let it be driven remotely through the Bluetooth or XBee serial channel. Really though, my main interest is not control but data collection.
I want to watch the MiniSumo linefollow, or sumo fight, and watch the variables, the motor outputs, the analog readings from the range and line sensors, and maybe even the state changes as it goes. A higher challenge would be to put that camera in there and merge that stream into LabVIEW, and have a complete remote panel to see the world as the sumo sees it.
I am very intrigued by telepresence. I may do a startup or spinoff. My first interest is in the classroom presence, for instructors or students. But I think the future in the field is open ended.
-- Randy M. Dumse
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Reply to
RMDumse
Hi,
Telepresence is not the future. It is everyday reality. I am a telecommuter. I' been in this role since 1998. I am living in one place and working at another part of the World. It is very exciting, when you are working on the server on the other site of the Globe. Just imagine - office in Florida, assembly department in Texas, programmers in Russia, server of the company is in California and some tele-operated devices are in Brazil and they send telemetry data to the server. And note - we've never met together off-line. All we are have never seen each other - only telecommuting together.
Yes, you are right. Now I am working on my hobby robotics project:
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yes, when you see through the eyes of small robot, which is going somewhere under your table, you see a different World. It is different point of view and things are look strange.
Sometimes I think - why not to put my robot to the City underground. Let him to find some gold for me... :-)
RMDumse wrote:
Reply to
RoboHobby
You have a good point. I had forgotten my own history.
Actually, I paid about half a million in attempting telecommuting too early. Back in the early 1990's I went to the Philippines, and set up a PCB design shop. We'd take in layout work during the day in the states, fax and email instructions to the Philippines office, and get a file back by Compuserve. (Or at least that was the idea.) Their work day was our night. We did get some customers, Tandy, Delco and others.
However, at that time the internet hadn't been established yet, so all our transfers had charges associated with them. We sometimes had to dial direct and modem files when the data services were on the blink. And since we were bandwidth limited by our costs and the communications services we could get, it was very difficult to get the ideas of nuances the customers wanted in their layouts. There was too much verbal descriptions of what they wanted, and while one person could take the information and try to transcribe it in email to send, it took about as much time to write it all down as it would have to do the layout. So the savings just weren't there.
As you describe, with the better bandwidths and "free" data transfers, even including Skype for voice calls, and IM Live for videos, it would have been much easier. If I could have gotten the management I needed in the Philippines, probably would have made a ton of money. But I gave up on it in 1994 for not being profitable.
Tell me something. Wages were very low in the PI. Like 1/20th the cost of a US engineer. I'd also thought about Russia. Had connections there too. Has the telecommuting raise the wages and the quality of life for the various folks around the world you deal with?
-- Randy M. Dumse
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Reply to
RMDumse
Good idea. I've seen those TV shows where guys go into sewers, and look in the cracks of the joints, and find some flakes and bits of gold. Why not let your robot do it for you? I've been out panning for gold a couple times myself in CO and CA. Never found much.
When I read about Roboguy's underwater ROV in the thread above, I thought of ocean mining. Made me wonder if anyone has used those to "dredge" San Fransisco Bay near where the rivers enter. Seems that's where the placer gold would wind up after millenia of slucing from the gold fields above. I bet there's some small boulders of pure gold wedged in the cracks of the bedrock.
In 2001 I went swimming in a river near Sacramento, with a friend near his property where he had permission to go to, and it was way back in the woods. On the way down the water, along the fire trails, you'd see the occassional old piece of rusting mining equipment. There was the remnants of an old bridge base down stream, but otherwise not sign of human presence where we were. Pretty much your classic ole swimming hole. Suits optional sort of place, cause nobody could see you. Anyway, I happened to look down in a tiny crevasse in the rocks near the bank I was holding on to, and a couple feet under the water, I saw a metalic glint. I reached down to pick it up. It was one of those new 2000 nickels. You know, the ones that aren't worth a dime. ;) Wonder how in the world that got there?
-- Randy M. Dumse
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Reply to
RMDumse
No, no force feedback. I have heard of other companies that have it, but not ours. It is very intuitive to control if you can see it (if it is right in front of you), but gets tougher when you only have the view from a pan & tilt camera or a wrist camera
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- bottom of the page). I just had to write firmware for a lighting controller that, besides being able to handle the pressure at almost 20000 feet of seawater, can also handle repeated short circuits, because the operators keep whacking the lights with the manips while it's underwater. SIZZLE!
-Robotguy
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robotguy

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