Telepresence robotics helps keep Santa out of trouble

[Here’s a Christmas-themed take by The National on news about telepresence robotics company Cyberselves. For more news, including about how the company will compete in next year’s $10 million finals of the ANA Avatar XPRIZE, see the Cyberselves website. And for demonstration videos see the company’s YouTube channel (the video “Cyberselves DASA Project Summary” is a good place to start).  –Matthew]

Robotics help keep Santa out of trouble

ROBOTICS experts are using the latest technology to help Santa make his North Pole workshop Covid-compliant and avoid any embarrassing chimney-related incidents tonight.

By Gregor Young
24th December 2021

The National Robotarium in Edinburgh and robotics firm Cyberselves are helping allay any fears the man in red might have about his girth.

Using Cyberselves’ “Teleport” app, Saint Nick can take control of one of the National Robotarium’s small robot “reindeer” to enter chimneys before him.

The software allows Santa to see, hear, and feel through the robot as if he was already inside the chimney, allowing him to assess its shape, size, and if there’s a fire in the hearth below – all without getting black soot all over his clean red outfit.

Once Father Christmas is satisfied all is safe, he can descend to deliver his presents – or use his magic to unlock the front door should the chimney appear a wee bit too tight.

The National Robotarium – a partnership between Heriot-Watt University and the University of Edinburgh – and Cyberselves are already developing similar technology to allow humans to control robots in hazardous environments, from offshore wind farms and nuclear reactors through to building sites and areas hit by natural disasters.

Along with the new remote sensing robot he’s carrying on his sleigh tonight, Santa also asked the experts to help keep him and his workforce healthy during the run-up to Christmas.

While the man himself is no stranger to working from home, he is prone to a tickly nose and sneezing, despite the best efforts of the North Pole’s ’elf and safety manager.

Technology installed at the North Pole by the Robotarium and Cyberselves now allows a doctor to control a robot to assess Santa’s condition, saving him a lengthy sleigh ride to visit his local medical centre.

A research project under way at the Robotarium, and supported by Cyberselves’ software, is using similar “telepresence” technology to connect doctors with care home residents to carry out check-ups remotely.

Working with Blackwood Homes and Care in Scotland, medics can control a robot to interact with and perform assessments on patients, allowing for more regular monitoring and reviews of care packages as necessary.

Stewart Miller, the National Robotarium chief executive, said: “It has been an honour to work with Santa and his elves to alleviate some of the challenges of living remotely in the North Pole and to support preparations for their busiest night of the year.

“We hope that by embracing new technologies and working in collaboration with our researchers, Santa will inspire children around the world to consider a career in robotics and artificial intelligence (AI).

“The robotics and AI research being pioneered at the National Robotarium is designed to have a positive impact on industry and society, to benefit people from all walks of life.”

Daniel Camilleri, co-founder and chief technology officer at Cyberselves, added: “We’ve gone from Cyberselves to cyber-elves to help Santa this Christmas.

“Our ‘Teleport’ application lets users remotely operate a robot and experience its senses as if they were really there.

“Powered by our unique software platform Animus, the tech operates at low latency, meaning it can be used across vast distances.

“For someone like Santa, who lives in a hard-to-reach area and needs access to services such as healthcare, it can open up crucial new ways to connect.”

Santa was approached for comment, but a spokes-elf said he was too busy to talk.

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