Web Work Sci-Fi: Floating Avatars for Telecommuters

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Here on WebWorkerDaily we regularly cover new tech that can help you collaborate remotely from virtual phone systems to multiuser video chat apps. All of these offer incremental improvements on the tech available to web workers, but what about the distant future of remote collaboration? What radical new tech tools might remake the way we work virtually?

Scientists are hard at work on the question, allowing their big brains to run wild and come up with out-of-the-box offerings for the web worker of the future … and they’re dreaming of robots.

California company Anybots, for example, has designed an adorable robot avatar that you control from home while it rambles around the office displaying a video of your face, interacting with co-workers. You’d better hope your corporate headquarters doesn’t have any stairs though, as the Anybot is unable to handle them.

But scientists at Tokyo’s Sony Computer Science Laboratories have come up with an innovative solution to deal with this so-called “Dalek problem” of maneuvering up and down stairs – a floating robot avatar head. They report:

We developed a floating avatar system that integrates a blimp with a virtual avatar to create a unique telepresence system. Our blimp works as an avatar and contains several pieces of equipment, including a projector and a speaker as the output functions. Users can communicate with others by transmitting their facial image through the projector and voice through the speaker. A camera and microphone attached to the blimp provide the input function and support the user’s manipulation from a distance. The user’s presence is dramatically enhanced compared to using conventional virtual avatars (e.g., CG and images) because the avatar is a physical object that can move freely in the real world.

Having trouble imagining what on earth this floating avatar could look like? Check out this New Scientist video:

How does the idea of your boss’s virtual head floating around the office strike you – Creepy? Cool? A little of both?

Image courtesy of Flickr user misocrazy

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