Ministry of Defence to explore use of ‘telexistence’

Written by Sam Trendall on 17 March 2020 in News

Department seeks to better understand audiovisual, robotic and haptic technologies

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The Ministry of Defence is exploring the possible use of ‘telexistence’, including robots, immersive video and audio, and haptic technologies.

The department is to undertake a “market exploration” exercise to ascertain the potential use in defence and security environments of three different families of technologies that, when combined and integrated, create a telexistence environment.

The first of these is telepresence, which is defined as a technology that can remotely provide immersive video and audio. Haptics, meanwhile, provide the user with a virtual tactile experience.

Finally, robotics, allows for users to physically interact with an environment from a distance.

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Using telexistence technologies could, the ministry believes, allow for military, defence, and security professionals to safely perform work in dangerous environments. This could include locations in which personnel could be exposed to explosives, fire, or chemical, nuclear, or biological material. Telexistence could also be used in “space exploration”, according to the MoD.

“Developments in remote, robotic and sensory technologies in recent decades have led to an increased ability to operate differently in challenging environments,” it said. “For defence and security communities, this includes significant steps to remove the need for people to be present in potentially hazardous locations.”

The exploration exercise will be jointly undertaken by two MoD agencies: the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory; and the Defence and Security Accelerator.

The organisations are looking for suppliers of one or more of the three types of telexistence offerings to submit evidence of possible use cases.

“This market exploration aims to better understand the technology-readiness level of the components of telexistence systems in isolation or together… to inform future investment,” the MoD said. “Potential solutions should allow a user to interact with or immerse themselves in a remote location as if they were physically there. The telexistence solution: should mitigate the risk associated with operating in hazardous domains; must be able to be tangibly demonstrated and allow the operator to interact with the environment in real-time; [and] can include elements of artificial intelligence, but must permit the operator to remain in the loop.”

Responses are invited until midday on 27 April.


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Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology

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