With so many responsibilities filling our daily lives, many of us would like to have an extra pair of arms to be able to finish everything on time. That seems to be the idea that gave rise to Fusion, a creative research project by the Keio University of Japan.
Presented with great success at the Siggraph 2018 conference, Fusion offers its users, literally, a second pair of arms. But what makes it different from other similar projects that we have seen over the years, is the fact that the Fusion operator is not the same person who uses the mechanical extensions, but is another human user, who controls the arms remotely using the magic of virtual reality. Essentially, it gives you two bodies, and two brains, for the price of one.
To learn more about it, we talked with Yamen Saraiji, one of the developers of the project. "Fusion is a telepresence backpack system that acts as an extension (or substitute) of the user's body, and allows another remote user to dive and operate," Saraiji told Digital Trends. "The backpack is equipped with two humanoid arms and a head, and when used: two people can share the same body and physical actions," he explained.
The process is innovative and interesting. A remote person uses a virtual reality helmet to view live images of the binocular view of the robot's head, and can control the arms naturally with two hand controls. Therefore, the user can feel “fused” with the substitute body, and both can share the actions and movements, hence the name of the robotic system.
This system can enable a wide variety of applications and scenarios, which can be explored by continuing use, ”added Saraiji. One of the ideas that he and his team have for Fusion is to help individuals perform actions or movements, for example, it could be used by a therapist to help with a patient's physical therapy.
"From our research perspective, we have focused on augmentative technologies for the body, and their applications to improve our well-being," Saraiji continued. “For Fusion, we imagine a situation in which our bodies can become substitutes for others, so that we can perform collective tasks and solve problems from a shared body.
The most obvious problem they encountered was unrelated collaboration between remote people who were actively connected in telepresence systems, but this situation does not seem to stop their objective. With the proposed concept of sharing the same body, we not only solve the problem of collaboration, but also propose its potential as a system for transferring skills and rehabilitation, ”Saraiji concluded.
A great advantage of Fusion is that the remote user gets practically the same perspective as the person using the backpack, which will make it easier to work in unison on physical tasks. In the best case, it will be like having a friend behind you, helping you when you need an extra hand.