Engineer s reach final of $10m global avatar competition

  • University of Sheffield researchers have reached the final of a major global competition to develop an avatar system
  • Researchers from Cyberselves – spun out of the University’s Department of Computer Science and Sheffield Robotics – have made it past more than 900 teams from around the world to reach the final of the ANA Avatar XPRIZE competition
  • Competition has a $10 million prize for developing an avatar system that can deploy a human’s senses, actions, and presence to a remote location in real time

Researchers from the University of Sheffield are through to the final of a major global competition to develop an avatar system that can transport human presence to a remote location instantly.

The team from Cyberselves – a company spun out of the University of Sheffield’s Department of Computer Science and Sheffield Robotics in 2019 – have reached the final of the ANA Avatar XPRIZE competition.

After competing against more than 900 teams from around the world, the Sheffield team have made it through to the final 15 teams who will now compete for a share of the $8 million final prize at an event in the US next year (Autumn 2022). The company has already won a share of the $2M semi-final prize pot.

The ANA Avatar XPRIZE competition is run by XPRIZE – a world leader in designing and operating incentive competitions to solve humanity’s grand challenges. Run over four years, teams from around the world are competing by developing an avatar system that can deploy a human’s senses, actions, and presence to a remote location in real time.

It is thought that such avatar systems could lead to a more connected world. In the future, avatars could help to provide critical care and deploy immediate responses in emergency situations, or offer opportunities for exploration and new ways of collaboration, stretching the boundaries of what is possible and maximizing the impact of skill and knowledge sharing.

Avatars being developed in the competition must demonstrate the ability to execute tasks across a variety of real-world scenarios and convey a sense of presence for both the operator and the recipient in those interactions.

Cyberselves have developed a new app, Teleport, that can enable people to transport themselves into the body of any robot, anywhere in the world. The app lets people see what the robot sees, hear what the robot hears, feel what the robot feels and move around in its body. Teleport can be used to help people visit relatives, explore tourist attractions, deliver more efficient and personalised healthcare, and clean up hazardous environments.

Cyberselves’ telepresence application is built on Animus, their universal language for robotics, which allows you to communicate with any robot anywhere in the world, through any platform and any operating system, using any computer language. It’s Animus that provides the low-latency, robot-agnostic, cloud-based communications driving Teleport.

Cyberselves have advanced to the finals of the competition after competing in the semi final event held in Miami this September.

Professor Tony Prescott, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Sheffield and the principle investigator behind the research and the initial projects that led to the creation of Cyberselves, said:

“We are very excited to be through to the final of this global competition. By qualifying we have demonstrated that our technology is amongst the best in the world. Our approach starts by considering the experience of the user, and is about ensuring low latency, comfort and ease-of-use. We think this is very important for future applications of telepresence where people may be ‘immersed’ in robot bodies for long periods of time.”

Daniel Camilleri, CEO Cyberselves, a graduate from the University’s Masters course on Robotics, and lead engineer of Cyberselves’ telepresence software, said:

“The XPrize results are an incredible testament to the power of Cyberselves software. We were up against some very strong teams in the semi-final, but the result is a validation of our approach and our technology. This is also a great opportunity to showcase the unique strengths of our system, the inspiration for which came from our time working at Sheffield Robotics-for instance, the ability to telepresence into many different kinds of robots and over distances of thousands of miles. There are many potential applications for this from healthcare, to exploring hazardous environments, to controlling robots in space. So we hope to build on our XPrize success to create new commercial opportunities.”

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