We've seen robots that look like humans, and robots that can react to human facial expressions — and now a group of researchers at Keio University in Japan have built a robot that can be a full-fledged avatar for a human. Known as Telesar, these "telexistence robots" are controlled by a human through a 3D head-mounted display, and are finely tuned to allow the operator to see and hear exactly as they normally would. With Telesar V, the latest version, they can also communicate what their fingers are touching, using temperature and force vectors to feel things as fine as the bumps on Lego blocks. The robots' movements can also be precisely controlled, essentially allowing the user to operate as they normally would without physically needing to be present.
It's all very reminiscent of movies like Surrogates and Avatar, but with slightly more practical applications — multi-sensory feedback is critical during remote surgery, for instance, and could be a safer way to enter dangerous areas. It's still in the early stages, but when you add this technology to what we've seen recently, sending out a robot to do our work remotely doesn't seem so far away.