“Weirdly natural” – words from Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s CEO, on trying the World’s First Touch-transmitting Telerobotic Hand at Amazon re:MARS Tech Showcase
After much anticipation, ANA HOLDINGS INC., HaptX, SynTouch, Shadow Robot Company unveiled the next generation of robotics technology at the Amazon Re:Mars Expo. Incorporating the latest advances from across the field of robotic and united by the ingenuity of ANA, the teleoperation and the telepresence system features the first robotic hand to successfully transmit touch sensations. Jeff Bezos Amazon’s CEO tried out the touch-sensitive, dexterous haptic robotic hand set up in an exhibit hall at the Aria Resort and Casino in Las Vegas and described the experience as “weirdly natural.”
Bezos started out with a simple task: picking up a plastic cup and dropping it onto a stack of cups. He then played around with a palm-sized soccer ball and a rainbow ring-stacking puzzle stating “OK, this is really cool.” It was the first time the collaborators of this teleoperation and telepresence technology displayed their creation outside the lab, to an audience made up of experts in machine learning, automation, robotics and space, as well as the general public and to the world’s richest person, Jeff Bezos.
Speaking to GeekWire Aerospace and Science Editor, Alan Boyle, Bezos looked over at the Rubik’s Cube on the table. “You want me to solve that Rubik’s Cube?” he joked. “I can’t even do that with my hands!” When it was time to move on, Bezos gave his trademark laugh and said, “that is really impressive.” He went on to say, “the tactile feedback is really tremendous.” After taking off the haptic gloves, one of the spectators asked Bezos how it felt. “Weirdly natural” he responded.
By combining Shadow Robot’s world-leading dexterous robotic hand with SynTouch’s biomimetic tactile sensors and HaptX’s realistic haptic feedback gloves, the new technology enables unprecedented precision remote-control of a robotic hand. In recent tests, a human operator in California was able to operate a computer keyboard in London, with each keystroke detected through fingertip sensors on their glove and faithfully relayed 5000 miles to the Dexterous Hand to recreate. Combining touch with teleoperation in this way is ground-breaking and points to future applications where we might choose – or need – to perform delicate actions at a distance, e.g. bomb disposal, deep-sea engineering or even surgery performed across different states.
Kevin Kajitani, Co-Director of ANA HOLDINGS INC. Avatar Division says, “We are only beginning to scratch the surface of what is possible with these advanced Avatar systems and through telerobotics in general. In addition to sponsoring the $10M ANA Avatar XPRIZE, we’ve approached our three partner companies to seek solutions that will allow us to develop a high performance, intuitive, general-purpose Avatar hand. We believe that this technology will be key in helping humanity connect across vast distances.”
Jake Rubin, Founder and CEO of HaptX says, “Our sense of touch is a critical component of virtually every interaction. The collaboration between HaptX, Shadow Robot Company, SynTouch, and ANA brings a natural and realistic sense of touch to robotic manipulation for the first time, eliminating one of the last barriers to true telepresence.”
Dr. Jeremy Fishel, Co-Founder of SynTouch says, “Users will see just how essential the sense of touch is when it comes to dexterity and manipulation and the various applications it can have within industry.”
Rich Walker, Managing Director of the Shadow Robot Company says, “Our remotely controlled system can help transform work within risky environments such as nuclear decommissioning and we’re already in talks with the UK nuclear establishment regarding the application of this advanced technology. It adds a layer of safety between the worker and the radiation zone as well as increasing precision and accuracy within glovebox-related tasks.”
Paul Cutsinger, Head of Voice Design Education at Amazon Alexa says, “re:MARS embraces an optimistic vision for scientific discovery to advance a golden age of innovation and this teleoperation technology by the Shadow Robot Company, SynTouch and HaptX more than fits the bill. It must be seen.”