“Scotty, Beam me up”

Posted by Flux on 

5 June 2012

What’s trending?

“Scotty, Beam me up”…

Once a fabled reality only existent and possible in science fiction cult films such as Star Trek – beaming is a trend of the future finding realization today. Ground breaking Beaming technology has been developed which allows people a real sense of physically being in a remote location with other people, and vice versa—without actually travelling.

Beaming involves real time interaction between the visitor in one place, and their avatar and the local environment in a remote location.  “This is achieved through shifting their means for perception into the destination and decomposing their actions, physiological and even emotional state into a stream of data that is transferred across the internet.”


Why it’s important

Remote presence takes on a whole new meaning. This technological trend sets the bar with regards to virtual reality and telecommunication technologies. It is a technology that that has the makings to re-shape the world as we know it and introduce new possibilities for interaction.

Mel Slater states that beaming will bring today’s “networking, computer vision, computer graphics, virtual reality, haptics, robotics and user interface technology together in a way that has never been tried before thereby transcending what is possible today.”

It will advance the utilization of the internet for social gatherings. The internet will become a key trans-portal hub in facilitating virtual travel.

What’s the butterfly effect?

It creates an interesting collusion between virtual, digital and physical worlds – a world where augmented realities and actual physical realities blur into each other. Humans can freely chart and traverse these spaces just as previously imagined in science fiction. This will represent a new era of human existence.

A trend of this nature offers many possibilities to what can be achieved with technology and interaction. It is in keeping with visions and ideas of cities and worlds of the future, which are slowly taking shape with technological trends on a micro-level. On that note, this is a significant breakthrough in human-robot collaboration and communication between robotic systems, again a trend that is touted to be of importance to environments and cities of the future.

Teleconferencing will be transformed, once beaming is able to convey the non-verbal communication that people value, it will reduce the need for businessmen to travel exhaustively around the world. Surgeons can already perform operations via telemedicine and beaming might not only make that routine a regular standard practice but also enable medical students in different countries to get hands-on training simultaneously.

Beaming has the potential to reduce human workload, costs and fatigue this according to Fong and Nourbakhsh, 2009. This is more applicable in industry where issues such as productivity and costs on travelling to different global destinations will be negated with this technology. Furthermore, beaming technology will feed into the ideas of future work environments where employees can interact from remote locations, without constantly having to be present in the office.

The technology also has an implication on ethics and laws, introducing the possibility of new kinds of law infringements such as identity theft and virtual crimes. These are important considerations in rolling out this technology.

The pioneers

Motion Capture technology, 3D technology, haptic suits and virtual gaming realities have all laid the foundation and contributed to the development of beaming technology.

Beaming international project funded by the European Commission, has been at the forefront of actualizing this conception. The project consists of a term of research experts who have investigated how a person can visit a remote location via the internet and feel fully immersed in the new environment.

Mel Slater (Project Leader) and his team have beamed people from Barcelona to London, embodying them either as a robot, or as an avatar in a specially equipped “cave”. One avatar was able to rehearse a play with a real actor, the stage being represented by the cave’s walls – screens projecting 3D images. This video provides an example of beaming.

The global hot spots

There are numerous labs championing the development of this technology in Europe.  These labs have achieved a great feat in demonstrating that this technology is possible and works well under pre-determined conditions. The StarLab in Barcelona is an active site of testing this technology alongside the EventLab; also in Barcelona. UCL (University College of London) is a hotspot for this technology, being recognised as a leading institute.

By: Saint-Francis Tohlang

About Saint-Francis

Saint-Francis is a cultural student of life; keenly perceptive and observant of shapers of culture and the post-modern climate. He is obsessed with contemporary culture and the human carnival. His research areas and interest are media markets and strategies, communications, youth culture, mobile culture and the online media ecology strongly rooted in an anthropological perspective.  Tohlang has an MA in Media from UCT.

Image credit: The world wide web

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