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Telepresence robots can be used to remotely attend meetings, tour a house or office, even visit the museum, but it's still nothing like real life. Researchers aim to change that by supercharging this new type of gadget with virtual reality. A team at the University of Pennsylvania built the Dexterous Observational Roving Automaton, or DORA, to work with the Oculus Rift VR headset. A pair of cameras on the remote robot not only streams a 3-D view of its surroundings, but it looks up, down and all around as you turn your own head.
It works by matching the movements of the robot's own flexible neck to the motion detected by the Oculus headset. And while telepresence is a natural place to start, it's by no means the final stop. The team hopes that once they finalize and commercialize DORA, swiveling heads like this could be applied for many purposes: tourism, military, emergency response, and of course video chat.
DORA is still a prototype, however, and the team is working on improving the responsiveness of the system and making sure it can work over cellular and Wi-Fi. You can learn more about the system and its creators over at the DORA website.