Forget your dreams of singing “The Thunder Song” with Ted. Now you can sing it as Ted. San Francisco-based VR developer Tatsuki Adaniya and his team have created a software that, when paired with an Oculus Rift, allows users to inhabit the body of a fluffy, robotic teddy bear. Not only does the headset allow you to see through the toy’s eyes, but using a motion-recording sensor, you can actually control its movements with your own. “We’re broadcasting human body language,” Adaniya told MIT Technology Review. When you turn your head, so does the bear.
The big question of course is, “why?” Adaniya hopes the device will help be used for telecommunications, say between a sick child and their relatives during a hospital stay. “The impression of the word ‘robot’ is scary and big,” he says. “I don’t want to feel like this is a robot. I want to feel this is an animal, or a new spirit.” A user can actually talk through the bear thanks to a hidden speaker and microphone within its body.
Whether or not children (or anyone for that matter) will prefer to see an animatronic avatar in place of their loved one’s face remains to be seen, but the next step will be developing various bodies that can be paired with the software, and a smartphone-ready version for those who don’t have a VR set lying around.
The consumer model will retail somewhere around the $200 mark – considerably less than a computer, or any other traditional video-calling hardware – which could make the tele-toy a good alternative for parents who want to connect to their tiny humans on a budget.
Other plausible applications include: espionage, use as a robotic doorman (you shall not pass), and scaring the sh** out of passersby.