DARPA Avatar robot project

Wired Danger Room – DARPA has a new $7 million for a project titled “Avatar”

The Avatar program will develop interfaces and algorithms to enable a soldier to effectively partner with a semi-autonomous bi-pedal machine and allow it to act as the soldier’s surrogate. These robots should be smart and agile enough to do the dirty work of war, Darpa notes. That includes the “room clearing, sentry control [and] combat casualty recovery.” And all at the bidding of their human partner.

The “Avatar” project, notes “key advancements in telepresence and remote operation of a ground system,” it sounds like the agency’s after an even more sophisticated robot-soldier synergy. They don’t specify the means, but Darpa’s already funded successful investigations into robots that are controlled with mind power alone. Granted, that research was performed on monkeys. But it does raise the tantalizing prospect that soldiers might one day meld minds with their very own robotic alter egos.

Telepresence and telerobotics would be very useful for space applications as we have covered here

* Latency smaller than our “cognitive timescale” leads to ”telepresence”
* When 2-­‐way latency exceeds our “cognitive timescale”, the brain works differently. “Move and wait” to avoid instability – inefficient.

Cognitive Timescale is about half of one second

• Human reaction time for visual stimulus is ~200 ms, ~150 ms for audio (probably smaller for haptic)
• High performance online gaming depends on latencies of less than 100-­‐200ms
• Telerobotic surgery (cutting, suturing, knot tying) requires less than 500 ms
• Telerobotic mining (driving bulldozers, drilling) assume ~500 ms
• Drone piloting with latencies of ~1000 ms (but flying is easy!)

Two way communication range within the cognitive time is 75,000km

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