Virtual reality ‘beaming’ technology transforms human-animal interaction
Using cutting-edge virtual reality technology, researchers have ‘beamed’ a person into a rat facility allowing the rat and human to interact with each other on the same scale.
Published in PLOS ONE, the research enables the rat to interact with a rat-sized robot controlled by a human participant in a different location. At the same time, the human participant (who is in a virtual environment) interacts with a human-sized avatar that is controlled by the movements of the distant rat. The authors hope the new technology will be used to study animal behaviour in a completely new way.
Computer scientists at UCL and the University of Barcelona have been working on the idea of ‘beaming’ for some time now, having last year digitally beamed a scientist in Barcelona to London to be interviewed by a journalist.
The researchers define ‘beaming’ as digitally transporting a representation of yourself to a distant place, where you can interact with the people there as if you were there. This is achieved through a combination of virtual reality and teleoperator systems. The visitor to the remote place (the destination) is represented there ideally by a physical robot.