Robot avatars that can see, hear, touch, and interact with people to be developed by 2021

Do you have any idea what robots of the future will look like? There surely is plenty of interest in this particular subject. However, it’s a bit difficult to predict what exactly lies ahead for robots, specifically those that are worthy of being deemed “humanoid” or perhaps human-like.

Regardless, it’s quite clear that so-called robot avatars, which might stand in place of real people, could come along at some point in the not-so-distant future. And now XPRIZE wants to speed things along by offering a hefty sum as a reward. The foundation has announced a new $10 million competition that calls on the brightest minds in robotics to come up with fully-working next-generation robot avatars by the year 2021.

It’s already a monumentally difficult task as it is, and the fact that they have specified a deadline in less than five years means that plenty of research and development needs to be done by experts as soon as possible. As a report on the XPRIZE competition states, the goal of the operation is simply to push the development of these robot avatars further. As long as the creations made by the researchers who participate in this contest meet XPRIZE‘s criteria for judging, they stand a chance of winning the ultimate prize.

What are they looking for, exactly?

And what exactly are the criteria set forth by XPRIZE for these avatars? So far, the foundation hasn’t revealed them yet. But it’s not an accident, as they deliberately didn’t let anyone know about what they think the winning avatar should, could, or would look like. All they’ve announced so far is that the winner has to give human users the option to “remotely see, hear, touch and interact with physical environments and other people” from a distance of 100 kilometers.

Also part of the requirements for the avatars is the ability to “execute tasks across a variety of real-world scenarios,” including possible future applications such as offering “critical care and deploy[ing] immediate emergency response in natural disaster.” (Related: Human-like Terminator rescue droids to become our “fourth emergency service” in 50 years.)

If many of today’s robots are single-purpose machines, XPRIZE wants something different for the future’s robot avatars. “It’s intended to be multi-purpose. Imagine a remote village with a single avatar system that provides utility to everyone in the village,” said Marcus Shingles, the CEO of the XPRIZE Foundation. “The robot could be controlled by different operators to repair solar panels, help with carpentry, and lots of other jobs.”

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