Re: Teleworking; teletransportation

From: Emlyn (pentacle) (
Date: Sun Apr 16 2000 - 23:13:39 MDT

Stirling Westrup wrote:
> >A friend of mine has been talking about setting up a business to do this.
> >He wouldn't rent out robots, of course, since the technology isn't up to
> >it, but he would rent out people. Someone would go to a meeting or
> >whatever, and would be equiped with a full set of computerized audio-
> >visual communications gear. He would be your agent, with you watching
> >his shoulder and prompting him as to what to say and do. It sounds a
> >little strange to me, but he thinks it would fly.
> Seems a little strange to me too. For my money I'd much rather
> teleconference. For me, the only reason to face-to-face with clients is
> enhance interpersonal relationships (its hard to buy somebody a drink via
> teleconference link). That goal would hardly be helped by sending a
> stranger wearing a cell phone ear-plug and a VR headset.

I find teleconferences are a really poor medium for interpersonal
communication, especially if it involves building trust, and such things as
initial brainstorming sessions, design, stuff where the parties involved
need to make something up from nothing/not much, and do not as yet share a
cohesive vision regarding whatever it is that they are embarking on. Also,
doing job interviews by teleconference is really, really awful.

I'm not sure if the employed actor (actor meant in the fashion of "someone
who acts on your behalf) is good for building trust, but I'm sure it would
help with those situations where people with whom you need to negotiate
really want a physical presence in front of them.

Personally I think the robots would do better, but as has been said, the
technology isn't quite up to it. That said, remember that this is not a
robot which must work on its own; it has a dedicated human pulling the
strings, so the job of control is simplified immensely. Not, I think, down
to the level where it is actually currently practical, but perhaps close.
Most important I think is high speed wireless communications. The same kind
of links that will make net-connected wearable computing work might also
make the remote robot body a possibility.

As I think more about this idea of the robot body for use by a remote human,
I am more convinced of it's utility. As the bodies became more
sophistitated, the experience from the driver's point of view would be more
and more realistic. Just as a teleconference is a poor (poor!) second to
being there, so would be a robot "avatar", but it would be a substantial
improvement over current options.

The logical extrapolation of this idea sees the suburban "home-fortress"
increasing to become something without any doors. If you need to do
something physically, outside the home, you connect to "Rent-a-robot".
Better yet, if you have to commute to work, just control your Hyundai
ExcelRobot, which zips down the highway into the city on wheels, then
changes to a four-legged style motion to enter the building where you work.
It has hands, eyes, ears, and can get up to your desk, plonk itself down,
and work away (all remotely guided by you).

The idea of sending your robot off to work to tap at a computer keyboard is
ridiculous (and so will probably happen somewhere), but the idea that a
robotic body could be you, when you do work where you must be present, seems
quite feasible, especially in a society where computer technology is
screaming along, high bandwidth comms is commonplace, and people are
increasingly reluctant to travel, because it is inconvenient, expensive, and

Haven't we been seeing lots of stuff about people doing surgery remotely
with the benefit of robot arms, etc...? Why not the robot body? I admit that
the optic fibre trailing down the street behind "you" would be a little

Emlyn, teleprocrastinating

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