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Telepresence Seen as Space Exploration Game-Changer

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Some experts say that telepresence could have such a major impact on society that it changes everything, from how humans explore space to how they remotely communicate with others. Telepresence generally refers to a group of technologies, including video cameras, audio sensors, and software, that let users feel like they are in the same room with other people in another location. Expanding the basic telepresence model could enable scientists to control a team of semi-autonomous robots on Mars with the objective of exploring and building outposts, for example, or allow factory managers to control production while working from home by controlling a team of smart robots on the manufacturing floor.

RPU Technology CEO John Merchant, speaking at the recent RoboBusiness Conference, says some of these capabilities are already possibility to some degree, but what is currently available is primitive. "For a million years our human species experience has been that the only way to work-there is to go-there," Merchant says. "That mind set has crippled our space program." He would like to see NASA restructure its overarching space exploration strategy and shift to telepresence as the way to achieve space exploration objectives without developing manned spacecraft. SETI Institute astronomer Seth Shostak agrees, arguing that exploration outside of the earth's solar system should be done by robots controlled through telepresence.

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