All Nippon Airways parent ANA Holdings is imagining a future where passengers can travel around the world without ever boarding an airliner.
The Japanese carrier is investigating technology that will allow a robot controlled by a human to set up a link that will allow its operator to see, hear, feel and interact with a remote environment in real-time.
Travelers would use technology such as haptic suits, virtual reality goggles and artificial reality to allow them, as ANA HD puts it, “to teleport their consciousness to remote locations”.
The ultimate goal of ANA is to expand its mission of connecting people through the group’s air network to new levels that create opportunities for the public, professionals and groups such as the elderly and those with disabilities.
It sees the general public shopping, enjoying sports matches and even fishing from remote locations while allowing professionals such as doctors, engineers and teachers to more widely share their expertise.
The company is this week demonstrating its vision at the Combined Exhibition of Advanced Technologies (CEATAC) this month using robots in different scenarios such as a kitchen, a school and a fish market.
The kitchen scenario demonstrates how a pair of robot hands have mastered the fine motions necessary to prepare meals while the fish market scenario will allow people in Tokyo to fish remotely in the Southern Japanese island of Kyushu.
The company took it plans a step further Monday by announcing a new platform called “avatar-in” was scheduled for release in April 2020 and would be tested with a small avatar robot called “newme”.
Each newme has the ability to transmit high definition 2K video that will allow users to see and interact with the robot’s surroundings.
The robots also have customizable body accessories for a variety of uses and ANA HD aims to deploy 1000 of them by summer 2020.
“ANA HD is built on connecting people and Avatars have the potential to connect people across the world in a way that traditional travel cannot and is a continuation of our core beliefs,” said ANA HD chief executive Shinya Katanozaka.
“Our vision of a better-connected planet will rely on the latest innovations in haptic robotics, VR/AR and AI to transform the way that humans interact.
“By placing the world at your fingertips, Avatars will open up new possibilities and help reshape everything from business and education to healthcare and entertainment.”
ANA said it would collaborate with partner companies to create an avatar social infrastructure worldwide.
It has also signed a memorandum of understanding with Agility Robotics, an Oregan State University spinoff, to investigate the feasibility of a new line of avatars that is more rugged, resilient and suitable for outdoor use.