Grasp telepresence robot puts a remote teacher on your shoulder

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The Grasp shoulder-perching robot whispers instructions in your ear while watching what you do (Photo: Akarsh Sanghi)

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The familiar cartoon meme where an angel sits on someone's shoulder and a devil on another, both giving advice in the person's ear is one we all know. But what if you were able to have a real adviser sitting on your shoulder while learning a new task that not only offered advice but oversaw and guided your actions as well? The Grasp telespresence robot is designed to do just that.

Consisting primarily of a webcam, a speaker, a microphone, and a remotely-controlled laser pointer, the shoulder-perching Grasp robot prototype is designed to provide a link between someone learning a new skill or updating an old one and a remote teacher. Whether it be learning to play a musical instrument, repairing electronic equipment, or even performing surgery, the whole idea is to provide a first-person view to allow interaction between instructor and pupil.

Utilizing inbuilt Arduino control electronics, the user can converse with a distant instructor via a Wi-Fi internet link or on a phone. The instructor can then offer advice and instructions in real-time whilst also being able to control a movable laser pointer via a screen-based joystick to highlight specific areas or call out and identify objects.

Unlike some other ideas for shoulder-mounted, telepresence robots, Grasp doesn't have any arms with only that steerable laser pointer allowing the remote instructor to draw attention to a subject. But this is in keeping with the intention of Grasp as a specifically-designed electronic assistant for mentoring and remote tutelage – not an assistive automaton.

"The tool provides the mentor with a real time insight into the learner's environment through the coupling of a first person point of view and an instructional laser pointer... It is the idea of having a companion looking over your shoulder and instructing you while learning something new irrespective of distance," claims Grasp's designer and builder, Akarsh Sanghi.

A student of the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design, Akarsh produced the little shoulder-perching robot as part of his Master's Thesis in Interaction Design. Little more than a provocative talking point for possible future iterations of interactive telepresence robots at the moment, Akarsh has detailed no plans for taking Grasp beyond its current prototype stage.

Source: Akarsh Sanghi.

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