Members of SLMC Group in the semi-finals of $10M ANA AvatarX Prize

[2021] Dr Vladimir Ivan (lead roboticist) and Professor Sethu Vijayakumar (scientific advisor) from Statistical Learning and Motor Control Group group, as part of the AvatarX team led by an Edinburgh startup Touchlab, qualified for the semifinals of the Avatar XPrize.

They are among 38 teams from 16 countries (only 2 from the UK). Semifinals testing will take place in September 2021, where teams will demonstrate their system capabilities and compete to become one of up to 20 teams to advance to the finals in summer 2022. The Avatar XPrize aims to create an avatar system that can transport human presence to a remote location in real-time. The Prize Pocket is $10M.

Avatar Nexi built to help medics

The Edinburgh team is developing a mobile remotely operated robot with a unique capability of touch combined advanced shared control.

Their avatar Nexi will be operating in a hospital medical setting assisting healthcare professionals to interact with patients remotely, complete prescriptions, facilitate diagnosis and perform further crucial tasks that would otherwise require a physical presence.

State of the art specs

Nexi integrates the NextageA humanoid torso from Kawada Robotics with an omnidirectional mobile base. Researchers have also integrated an anthropomorphic robotic hand robolimb (Ossur) and an industrial gripper (Robotiq) to the bimanual platform. The eDermis tactile sensors developed by Touchlab are complemented with force sensing, cameras, depth sensors and a variety of other sensor modalities.

The team are developing algorithms for safe and robust whole-body control. Low latency remote operation is complimented with shared control that assists the operator with precise and safety-critical tasks. While the operator is focusing on interacting with the avatar users, the software ensures that the robot is safe, intuitive and easy to operate.

Avatars of the future

The Avatar XPrize winning team is expected to integrate multiple emerging technologies to develop a physical, non-autonomous Avatar System with which an operator can see, hear, and interact within a remote environment in a manner that feels as if they are truly there. These avatars must demonstrate the ability to execute tasks across a variety of real-world scenarios and convey a sense of presence for both the operator and the recipient in those interactions. In the future, avatars could help provide critical care and deploy immediate responses in emergency situations, or offer opportunities for exploration and new ways of collaboration, stretching the boundaries of what is possible and maximizing the impact of skill and knowledge sharing.

Related links

X Prize website

Avatar X on SLMC website

SLMC website

Touchlab website