Robot avatar beaming put to the test

Photo of robot avatar and presenter

The BBC has been given an exclusive demonstration of how the technology of "'beaming" robot avatars works, allowing a kind of 'physical' interaction at a distance.

Mel Slater, Professor of Virtual Environments at UCL, demonstrated his pioneering technology to the BBC's Rory Cellan-Jones. He showed how he could "beam" his wife, Dr Mavi Sanchez-Vives who was in Barcelona, into his office in London, in the guise of a robot.

Mel Slater calls beaming augmented reality, rather than virtual reality. In beaming - unlike the virtual worlds of computer games and the Second Life website - the robot or avatar interacts with real people in a real place. Mel and his team have beamed people from Barcelona to London, embodying them either as a robot, or as an avatar in a specially equipped "cave". One avatar was able to rehearse a play with a real actor, the stage being represented by the cave's walls - screens projecting 3D images.

View the BBC video.

Read a related BBC News Magazine article.