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Taking telepresence to a new level


Opening the door to a new world of education and entertainment the development of a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) and simulator allows users to go where few others have gone before, taking telepresence to a new level.

Developed by nine partners from four EU countries under the IST project TELEDRIVE, the system allows users to go underwater in an aquarium or in the sea without getting their feet wet or to visit an archaeological site where human presence could be damaging.

“TELEDRIVE allows people to take virtual journeys in real locations that would otherwise be inaccessible,” explains project coordinator Mario Maza at the University of Zaragoza in Spain. “Sensors and cameras on the vehicle relay not only sight and sound but also motion to a simulator showroom, allowing people to experience what the remote vehicle is experiencing with all their senses.”

The use of ROVs that transmit motion as well as audiovisual information for the purpose of education and entertainment is a major innovation, going a step beyond traditional virtual reality simulators.

“Traditional simulators offer a completely virtual environment. What they show is nothing more than a computer model,” Maza notes. “In the case of TELEDRIVE what users see, hear and feel is from a real vehicle in a real place transmitting its surroundings to a showroom in real time.”

Within the scope of the project two prototype ROVs – a submarine and a wheeled vehicle – were developed alongside the showroom and control room, both of which are mounted on a moving platform that emulates the motion of the vehicles. In the case of the submarine, the control and show rooms are connected to the vehicle by cable, while for the land version full duplex radio is used.

The system was tested and demonstrated last year, in one instance with the remote vehicle at the University of Zaragoza being operated via satellite from Nepal. Trial users were “awed” by the possibilities the system offers to visit remote and inaccessible locations, the coordinator explains.

At the Oceanopolis aquarium in Brest, France, which was one of the trial sites, the TELEDRIVE system is currently undergoing further development to offer visitors underwater tours, while Italian project partners Superelectric and OK Games are developing a similar remote operated submarine for use off the coast of Sardinia. Spanish partner Irosa is developing a basic version of the wheeled vehicle and simulator.

Commercial products are likely to be on the market over the coming months in the key entertainment and education sectors, with Maza also seeing the potential for TELEDRIVE technology to be used in the future in industry and mining for work in hazardous environments.

Tara Morris | alfa
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