Spin-out Cyberselves pushes technology to exciting new spaces in global competition

A Department of Computer Science spin-out company, whose avatar system allows people to teleport into and control a robot from a vast distance, pushed their technology further than ever before in the finals of a prestigious international competition.

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Sheffield-based Cyberselves teamed up with Edinburgh-based Touchlab to form a superteam representing the UK in The ANA Avatar XPRIZE in Los Angeles, California recently.

Using Cyberselves’ expertise in robotic telepresence and Touchlab’s ground-breaking e-skin system, the team created a unique, state-of-the-art system, deploying a modified PAL Tiago robot controlled from a chair in which the operator can sit to pilot the robot using immersive virtual reality (VR) and haptic feedback. 

Emerging from research undertaken at the University of Sheffield’s Department of Computer Science, Cyberselves’ technology incorporates a combination of cloud robotics - an emerging field rooted in cloud computing - VR, and haptic feedback; technology that can create an experience of touch by applying forces, vibrations or touches.

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It is this combination of cutting-edge technologies that enables the human operator to see, hear and feel through a robot so they can perform tasks from thousands of miles away as if they were there in person.

This intuitive, immersive control of a robot could be used in anything from disaster relief to healthcare. Applications range from nuclear decommissioning to bomb disposal, offshore wind production and delivering personalised healthcare.

While Cyberselves and Touchlab did not win the competition, their team was one of 17 from across the globe to make it to the finals in what was an intensive four-year process with several qualifying rounds. Competing against 37 teams in the semi finals, the team won a share of a $2 million prize pot for progressing to the final.

Dr Michael Szollosy, Founder and Chief Operating Officer at Cyberselves and Research Fellow at the University of Sheffield’s Department of Computer Science, said: “We’ve had a terrific ride in the XPRIZE competition and it’s been a real privilege competing alongside companies doing such brilliant work in advancing telepresence technology.

“Over the past four years we’ve learnt a great deal and pushed ourselves into new and exciting spaces that go far beyond what we might have thought possible.

“We’re very much looking forward to continuing to push the boundaries of this technology which has such a huge potential for real-world impact.”

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