Telepresence refers to a set of technologies which allow a person to feel as if they were present, to give the appearance that they were present, or to have an effect, at a location other than their true location.
Teleoperation is the operation of a machine at a distance.
Telerobotics is the area of robotics concerned with the control of robots from a distance, chiefly using wireless connections. It is a combination of two major subfields, teleoperation and telepresence.
Telepresence refers to a set of technologies
which allow a person to feel as if they were present, to give the
appearance that they were present, or to have an effect, at a location
other than their true location.
Telepresence requires that the senses of the user, or users, are provided with such stimuli
as to give the feeling of being in that other location. Additionally,
the user(s) may be given the ability to affect the remote location. In
this case, the user's position, movements, actions, voice, etc. may be
sensed, transmitted and duplicated in the remote location to bring about this effect. Therefore information may be travelling in both directions between the user and the remote location.
Telepresence: a matter of degree
Telepresence is a matter of degree. Rarely will a telepresence
system provide such comprehensive and convincing stimuli that the user
perceives no differences from actual presence. But the user may set
aside such differences, depending on the application. Watching television, for example, although it stimulates our primary senses of vision and hearing,
rarely gives the impression that the watcher is no longer at home.
However, television sometimes engages the senses sufficiently to
trigger emotional responses from viewers somewhat like those
experienced by people who directly witness or experience events.
Televised depictions of sports events, or disasters such as the
infamous September 11 terrorist attacks can elicit strong emotions from viewers.
As the screen size increases, so does the sense of immersion, as
well as the range of subjective mental experiences available to
viewers. Some viewers have reported a sensation of genuine vertigo or motion sickness while watching IMAX movies of flying or outdoor sequences.
Even the fairly simple telephone achieves a limited form of telepresence, in that users consider themselves to be talking to each other on the telephone
rather than talking to the telephone itself. To an observer with no
knowledge of telephones, watching a person chatting to an inanimate
object might seem curious, but the telephone is readily usable by
almost everyone who can speak and listen.
Most often, currently feasible telepresence gear leaves something to be desired; the user must suspend disbelief
to some degree, and choose to act in a natural way, appropriate to the
remote location, perhaps using some skill to operate the equipment. In
contrast, a telephone user does not see herself as "operating" the
telephone, but merely talking to another person with it. A goal of
telepresence developers might be to similarly have their users lose
direct awareness of the equipment they are using.
Comparison with virtual reality
Telepresence refers to a user interacting with another live, real place, and is distinct from virtual presence,
where the user is given the impression of being in a simulated
environment. Telepresence and virtual presence rely on similar
user-interface equipment, and they share the common feature that the
relevant portions of the user's experience at some point in the process
will be transmitted in an abstract (usually digital)
representation. The main functional difference is the entity on the
other end: a real environment in the case of telepresence, vs. a computer in the case of virtual reality.
For a user to be given a convincing telepresence experience, sophisticated technologies are required.
A minimum system usually includes visual feedback. Ideally, the entire field of view
of the user is filled with a view of the remote location, and the
viewpoint corresponds to the movement and orientation of the user's
head. In this way, it differs from television or cinema, where the viewpoint is out of the control of the viewer.
In order to achieve this, the user may be provided with either a very large (or wraparound) screen, or small displays mounted directly in front of the eyes. The latter provides a particularly convincing 3D sensation. The movements of the user's head must be sensed, and the camera must mimic those movements accurately and in real time. This is important to prevent unintended motion sickness.
Sound is generally the easiest sensation to implement with high fidelity, with the telephone dating back more than 100 years, and very high-fidelity sound equipment readily available as consumer gear. Stereophonic sound is more convincing than monoaural sound, and surround sound is better still.
The ability to manipulate a remote object or environment is an
important aspect of real telepresence systems, and can be implemented
in large number of ways depending on the needs of the user. Typically,
the movements of the user's hands (position in space, and posture of
the fingers) are sensed by wired gloves, inertial sensors, or absolute spacial position sensors. A robot in the remote location then copies those movements as closely as possible. This ability is also known as Teleoperation.
The more closely the robot re-creates the form factor of the human
hand, the greater the sense of telepresence. Complexity of robotic
effectors varies greatly, from simple one axis grippers, to fully anthropomorphic robot hands.
teleoperation refers to a system that provides some sort of tactile
force feedback to the user, so the user feels some approximation of the
weight, firmness, size, and/or texture of the remote objects
manipulated by the robot.
Rather than traveling great distances, in order to have a face-face meeting, it is now possible to teleconference instead, using a multiway video phone. Each member of the meeting, or each party, can see every other member on a screen or screens, and can talk to them as if they were in the same room. This brings enormous time and cost benefits, as well as a reduced impact on the environment from air travel.
A good telepresence strategy puts the human factors first, focusing on
visual collaboration solutions that closely replicate the brain's
innate preferences for interpersonal communications, separating from
the unnatural "talking heads" experience of traditional
videoconferencing. These cues include life–size participants, fluid
motion, accurate flesh tones and the appearance of true eye contact. This is already a well-established technology, used by many businesses today. The chief executive officer of Cisco Systems, John Chambers in June 2006 at the Networkers Conference compared telepresence to teleporting from Star Trek, and said that he saw the technology as a potential billion dollar market for Cisco.
Michael Venditte,Vice President of Engineering of Telanetix defines
Telepresence as a human experience of being fully present at a live
real world location remote from one's own physical location. Someone
experiencing video Telepresence would therefore be able to behave, and
receive stimuli, as though part of a meeting at the remote site. The
fore mentioned would result in interactive participation of group
activities that will bring benefits to a wide range of users.
Application examples could be sited within emergency management and
security services, B&I, entertainment and education industries.
Telepresence can be used to establish a sense of shared presence or
shared space among geographically separated members of a group.
The cost of deep water diving operations is extremely high due to
safety regulations, hyperbaric equipment, time spent in decompression,
and support vessel costs. Telepresence systems for inspection and
teleoperation for repair and maintenance would realise significant cost
benefits and also remove divers from hazardous environments.
Many other applications in situations where humans are exposed to
hazardous situations are readily recognised as suitable candidates for
telepresence. Mining, bomb disposal, military operations, rescue of
victims from fire, toxic atmospheres, or even hostage situations, are
Small diameter pipes, otherwise inaccessible for examination, can now be viewed using pipeline video inspection.
The possibility of being able to project the knowledge and the
physical skill of a surgeon over long distances has many attractions.
Thus, again there is considerable research underway in the subject.
(Locally controlled robots are currently being used for joint
replacement surgery as they are more precise in milling bone to receive
the joints.) The armed forces have an obvious interest since the
combination of telepresence, teleoperation, and telerobotics can
potentially save the lives of battle casualties by allowing them prompt
attention in mobile operating theatres by remote surgeons.
The benefits of enabling schoolchildren to take an active part in
exploration have been shown by the JASON and the NASA Ames Research
Center programs. The ability of a pupil, student, or researcher to
explore an otherwise inaccessible location is a very attractive
proposition; For example, locations where the passage of too many
people is harming the immediate environment or the artifacts
themselves, e.g. undersea exploration of coral reefs, ancient Egyptian
tombs, and more recent works of art.
Research is also being conducted to investigate the use of
telepresence to provide professional development to teachers. Research
has shown that one of the most effective forms of teacher professional
development is coaching, or cognitive apprenticeship. The application of telepresence shows promise for making this approach to teacher professional development practical.
Advertising and sales
and property agents could use telepresence to allow potential customers
to sample holiday locations and view properties remotely making
Telepresence systems could be incorporated into theme or nature
parks to allow observers to travel through coral reefs or explore
underground caves. In amusement parks, the elderly or infirm could experience the thrill of live roller coaster rides without risk.
In the games, users can interact using telepresence, sharing robots
to interact one human with another (paired objects as remote surrogate
actors). In other words, if one partner shakes the object, the remote
object also shakes.
In 1998, Diller and Scofidio created the "Refresh", an
Internet-based art installation that juxtaposed a live web camera with
recorded videos staged by professional actors. Each image was
accompanied with a fictional narrative which made it difficult to
distinguish which was the live web camera.
In 1993, Eduardo Kac
and Ed Bennett created a telepresence installation "Ornitorrinco on the
Moon", for the international telecommunication arts festival "Blurred
Boundaries" (Entgrenzte Grenzen II). It was coordinated by Kulturdata,
in Graz, Austria, and was connected around the world.
Telepresence and AI
was one of the pioneers of intelligence-based mechanical robotics and
telepresence. He designed and built some of the first mechanical hands
with tactile sensors, visual scanners, and their software and computer
interfaces. He also influenced many robotic projects outside of MIT,
and designed and built the first LOGO "turtle."
Commercial Telepresence Systems
Telepresence systems aimed at corporate customers are commercialized by BrightCom, Cisco, Hewlett-Packard, Telanetix, Tandberg, Teliris, and Polycom. Prices range from tens to hundreds of thousand dollars . These systems include multiple microphones, speakers, High-Definition
monitors, cameras, and often dedicated networks and custom-made
studios. They strive to be as transparent to users as possible by
providing life-size videos, imperceptible transmission delays, and
A telepresence system aimed at hospitalized, homebound and special needs children is commercialized by telbotics.
Called PEBBLES, it is intended to connect children to their home
classroom, allowing for participation in classroom activities and
PEBBLES was first used in 1997 at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children
and was launched in 2001 in the United States at Yale-New Haven
Children's Hospital. The technology is now in use in Canada, US, and
The first commercially successful telepresence company, Teleport
(which was later changed to TeleSuite), was founded in 1993 by David
Allen and Harold Williams.
The original intent was to develop a system that could allow families
to interact across great distances without the hassle or costliness of
flying. The first systems (which they called TeleSuites) looked more
like something out of an upper class home rather than a conference room
in an office suite (which are what most systems are used for today).
Hilton Hotels had originally made a deal with them to begin installing
them in their hotels throughout the United States and other countries,
but usage was low. The idea lost momentum and Hilton eventually backed
out. They later began to focus on business oriented telepresence
systems. Shareholders eventually held enough stock to take over the
company, which ultimately led to its collapse. David Allen purchased
all of the assets of TeleSuite and then called the new company Destiny
Conferencing. Although they survived, the idea didn't actually truly
catch on until other mega corporations jumped onboard such as HP,
Cisco, and Polycom who released similar systems around the mid 2000's.
Polycom eventually bought them out (Destiny Conferencing) and now
carries the TeleSuite telepresence system that is now known as the RPX
(real presence experience) mentioned above.
Telerobotics is the area of robotics concerned with the control of robots from a distance, chiefly using wireless connections (like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, the Deep Space Network, and similar), "tethered" connections, or the Internet. It is a combination of two major subfields, teleoperation and telepresence.
means "doing work at a distance", although by "work" we mean almost
anything. What we mean by "distance" is also vague: it can refer to a
physical distance, where the operator is separated from the robot by a
large distance, but it can also refer to a change in scale, where for
an example a surgeon may use micro-manipulator technology to conduct
surgery on a microscopic level.
A telemanipulator (teleoperator) is a device that is
controlled remotely by a human operator. If such a device has the
ability to perform autonomous work, it is called a telerobot. If the device is completely autonomous, it is called a robot.
In simple cases the controlling operator's command actions correspond
directly to actions in the device controlled, as for example in a radio
controlled model aircraft or a tethered deep submergence vehicle. Where
communications delays make direct control impractical (such as a remote
planetary rover), or it is desired to reduce operator workload (as in a
remotely controlled spy or attack aircraft) , the device will not be
controlled directly, instead being commanded to follow a specified
path. At increasing levels of sophistication the device may operate
somewhat independently in matters such as obstacle avoidance, also
commonly employed in planetary rovers.
Devices designed to allow the operator to control a robot at a distance is sometimes called telecheric robotics.
Two major components of Telerobotics and Telepresence are the visual
and control applications. A remote camera provides a visual
representation of the view from the robot. Placing the robotic camera
in a perspective that allows intuitive control is a recent technique
that although based in Science Fiction (Robert Heinleins WALDO AND
MAGIC COMPANY 1959) has not been fruitful as the speed, resolution and
bandwidth have only recently been adequate to the task of being able to
control the robot camera in a meaningful way. Using a head mounted
display, the control of the camera can be facilitated by tracking the
head as shown in the figure below.
This only works if the user feels comfortable with the latency of
the system, the lag in the response to movements, and the visual
representation. Any issues such as, inadequate resolution, latency of
the video image, lag in the mechanical and computer processing of the
movement and response, and optical distortion due to camera lens and
head mounted display lenses, can cause the user 'simulator sickness' which is exacerbated by the lack of vestibular stimulation with visual representation of motion.
Mismatch between the users motions such as registration errors, lag
in movement response due to overfiltering, inadequate resolution for
small movements, and slow speed can contribute to these problems.
The same technology can control the robot, but then the hand eye
coordination issues become even more pervasive through the system, and
user tension or frustration can make the system difficult to use.
Ironically the tendency to build robots has been to minimize the
degrees of freedom because that reduces the control problems. Recent
improvements in computers has shifted the emphasis to more degrees of
freedom, allowing robotic devices that seem more intelligent and more
human in their motions. This also allows more direct teleoperation as
the user can control the robot with their own motions.
means "feeling like you are somewhere else". Some people have a very
technical interpretation of this, where they insist that you must have
head-mounted displays in order to have telepresence. Other people have
a task-specific meaning, where "presence" requires feeling that you are
emotionally and socially connected with the remote world. It's all a
little vague at this time.
A telerobotic interface can be as simple as a common MMK
(monitor-mouse-keyboard) interface. While this is not immersive, it is
inexpensive. Telerobotics driven by interet connections are often of
this type. A valuable modification to MMK is a joystick, which provides
a more intuitive navigation scheme for planar robot movement.
Dedicated telepresence setups utilize a head mounted display with
either single or dual eye display, and an ergonomically matched
interface with joystick and related button, slider, trigger controls.
Future interfaces will merge fully immersive virtual reality interfaces and port real-time video instead of computer-generated images. Another example would be to use an omnidirectional treadmill
with an immersive display system so that the robot is driven by the
person walking or running. Additional modifications may include merged
data displays such as infrared thermal imaging, real-time threat
assessment, or device schematics.
With the exception of Project Apollo most space exploration has been conducted with telerobotic space probes. Most space-based astronomy has been conducted with telerobotic telescopes. Recent noteworthy examples include the Mars exploration rovers (MER) and the Hubble Space Telescope. In the case of the MER mission, the spacecraft and the rover were each telerobotically operated.
Marine remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) are widely used to work in water too deep or too dangerous for divers. They repair offshore oil platforms
and attach cables to sunken ships to hoist them. They are usually
attached by a tether to a control center on a surface ship. The wreck
of the Titanic was explored by an ROV, as well as by a crew-operated vessel.
Additionally, a lot of telerobotic research is being done in the
field of medical devices, and minimally invasive surgical systems. With
a robot system a surgeon can work inside the body through tiny holes
just big enough for the manipulator, with no need to open up the chest
cavity to allow hands inside.
Source: Wikipedia (All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License and Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.)