Visiting the Venice Biennale exhibition remotely with the iCub3 robot

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Picture by: G.Berretta. Credit: Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia – © IIT, all rights reserved.

Over the previous few many years, technological advances have opened new and thrilling prospects for each distant tourism and the teleoperation of robotic techniques. This allowed laptop scientists to develop more and more subtle techniques that permit people to just about go to distant places in immersive methods.

Researchers on the Italian Institute of Know-how (IIT) in Genoa have not too long ago launched an modern avatar-based system that enables a human operator to just about navigate and transfer round in a real-world setting remotely and in real-time, as if the operator had been bodily there. This method, launched in a paper pre-published on arXiv and presented in a video posted on YouTube, is predicated on the humanoid robotic iCub3, additionally created at IIT. The staff efficiently used it to go to the Venice Biennale, a famend artwork and structure exhibition in Venice, in Italy.

“My lab, the Artificial and Mechanical Intelligence lab at IIT, has several research axes, and one of those is what we call telexistence,” Daniele Pucci, coordinator of the analysis challenge, instructed Tech Xplore. “The primary goal of this research is to make physical avatars for humans via humanoid robots. This technology will allow us to exist physically and act effectively in a remote place thanks to a robotic (humanoid) body.”

The time period “telexistence” entails permitting people to really feel like they’re elsewhere, whereas additionally with the ability to work together with their surrounding setting bodily, as if they really existed on this distant location. That is sometimes achieved utilizing a mix of digital actuality (VR) know-how and bodily robots.

Pucci and his colleagues have been making an attempt to develop telexistence techniques for a number of years. Their latest paper builds on a research they carried out in 2017 and on the analysis efforts that adopted.

“In September 2018, we showed a preliminary avatar system utilizing the iCub 2.0,” Pucci defined. “The iCub 2.0, however, could not play the role of an avatar for humans effectively, as its height (about one meter) and its arms’ limited workspace did not allow the robot to be effective in an environment made for adult humans. For instance, the robot had difficulties in reaching objects on a table.”

To enhance their earlier system, in 2019 Pucci and their colleagues began engaged on a brand new model of iCub, the iCub3, which is 1.2m in top, has an improved actuation and integrates extra superior sensors. These traits make it a greater avatar for the staff’s telexistence system than its predecessors.

Visiting the Venice Biennale exhibition remotely with the iCub3 robot
Picture by: G.Berretta. Credit: Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia – © IIT, all rights reserved.

“Our work also has three philanthropic objectives,” Pucci mentioned. “Firstly, the COVID-19 pandemic taught us that advanced telepresence systems might become necessary very quickly across different fields, including healthcare and logistics. Secondly, avatars may allow people with severe physical disabilities to work and accomplish tasks in the real world via the robotic body. This may be an evolution of rehabilitation and prosthetics technologies. Lastly, we may imagine a future for tourism, where physical avatars are distributed around the world and we can access them from our home and visit Tokyo, New York, or New Delhi remotely just by wearing a headset and few other wearable technologies.”

The iCub3-based Avatar System launched by Pucci and his colleagues just about transports a human operator to a distant place, permitting it to maneuver, grasp or manipulate objects, converse and make facial expressions on this place. The system has two key parts: the operator know-how and the avatar (iCub3).

The consumer’s actions, phrases and facial expressions are carried out by the iCub3 robotic, which is deployed within the place he/she is just about visiting. As well as, customers obtain fixed visible, auditory, haptic and touch-related suggestions from the distant setting, by means of a sequence of wearable units, built-in within the operator know-how.

“The operator technology consists of devices created at IIT and off-the-shelf products that have been integrated into the system,” Pucci defined. “The IIT devices, developed in the context of iFeel (a start-up project by our lab), include a set of wearable technologies to track the human motion and to generate haptic feedback. The iFeel technology allows us to monitor the motion of the operator arms, for instance, and then project it onto the avatar. Analogously, it allows us to emulate the sense of touch: if someone hugs the avatar, motors emulate a sense of touch on the human operator.”

Along with the wearable know-how developed by the IIT’s spinoff, the system’s operator {hardware} integrates a sequence of off-the-shelf merchandise, together with headsets, haptic gloves, and treadmills. An enormous a part of Pucci and his colleague’s latest research was to develop algorithms and software program architectures that may effectively combine the info gathered by each these off-the-shelf merchandise and iFeel units, whereas additionally producing outputs which are despatched to the iCub3 avatar.

“Our system’s second component is the avatar, namely the iCub3 humanoid robot,” Pucci mentioned. “The iCub3 robot is 25 cm taller than the previous iCub versions, thus representing a more adequate platform to interact within a human environment. Its balance and locomotion are more robust and able to emulate human movements and physical interaction better.”

As it’s larger than its predecessors, iCub3 weighs 52kg, roughly 20 kg greater than iCub2. As well as, the motors in its legs are extra highly effective than these in earlier iCub robots, permitting the robotic to maneuver quicker and extra effectively.

Visiting the Venice Biennale exhibition remotely with the iCub3 robot
Picture by S.Noli. Credit: Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia – © IIT, all rights reserved.

“The iCub3 platform also has different actuation mechanics, as it is no longer based on cable-driven joints,” Pucci defined. “In terms of sensors, it has an additional depth camera and force sensing of the latest generation, withstanding higher robot weight. Lastly, iCub3 has a higher capacity battery, which is located within the torso assembly instead of being included in a rigidly attached backpack.”

To judge their avatar system and reveal its potential, the researchers used it to remotely go to the Italian Pavilion on the 17th Worldwide Structure Exhibition on the Venice Biennale. Utilizing a regular fiber optic connection, they allowed a consumer positioned of their campus in Genoa to stroll real-time by means of the exhibition in Venice.

“To the best of our knowledge, this is the first time that an avatar system transports the operator locomotion, manipulation, voice, and face expressions to a legged humanoid avatar while receiving visual, auditory, haptic and touch feedbacks,” Pucci mentioned. “The use of a system to allow remote tourism in Venice is also unique to us.”

Sooner or later, the avatar system might permit customers to just about journey to a variety of cities or artwork exhibitions on this planet. The system was additionally entered into the ANA Avatar XPRIZE, a contest for groups constructing robotic avatars with a complete prize of 10 million {dollars}, and is among the many semifinalists. Pucci and his colleagues are thus at the moment working to additional enhance the platform for the ultimate phases of the competitors.

“Another plan for our future work is related to the so-called Metaverse,” Pucci added. “We believe that much of the technology and algorithms we developed could be useful for controlling and receiving information from digital avatars that populate the Metaverse. So, we now also plan to investigate how to apply our results in this new fascinating direction, hoping that investors will support us on this journey.”


From remote tourism to metaverse, a new robotic avatar made in Italy


Extra data:
Stefano Dafarra et al, iCub3 avatar system. arXiv:2203.06972v1 [cs.RO], arxiv.org/abs/2203.06972

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