June 02, 2012, 7:25 AM — Everyone has days where, as much as you love your friends, you'd rather have some alone time. Everyone also has days where, as much as you enjoy your alone time, you'd much rather be with your friends (who went out and saw a movie without inviting you--sigh). Of course, with something like Yamagata University's shoulder robot, it doesn't mean you have to be totally alone.
The MH-2 telepresence robot sits on your shoulder, and can be controlled by another person at any time. Once a friend has control, it will become an avatar of sorts for them. The shoulder bot has two flexible arms, along with a head and body, and it can even simulate a person's breathing to make it as realistic as possible (although I don't know how realistic a shoulder-mounted bot can be). It also has small cameras on either side of its head.
Here's how the robot works: Your friend would use a 3D TV (or the most immersive display you could get) while standing in front of something capable of motion capture, like a Kinect. When you put the MH-2 on your shoulder, your friend can (virtually) come along for the ride. The robot will mimic every movement that your friend makes. It can also talk if you want to chat with your friend. It's like a robotic version of a hologram.
Unfortunately, to make the robot actually realistic, you have to carry around a backpack, which hosts its 22 actuators and servos that control different wires--they work a little like puppet strings. It's a pretty heavy-looking and bulky bag, sadly, and it doesn't look like much fun to carry.
Researchers say they are working on making the bag more compact. Still, the bulkiness isn't such a big deal if you're sitting at home looking for ways to banish that loneliness.
[via IEEE Spectrum]
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