Sponsored by All Nippon Airways (ANA), Japan’s largest and five-star airline for nine consecutive years, the $10M ANA Avatar XPRIZE competition called upon teams to develop physical, human-operated robotic avatar systems that can execute tasks and replicate a person’s senses, actions, and presence to a remote location in real time. These avatars, also referred to as telepresence systems, enable people to apply their skills in critical situations over great physical distances.
Out of the 99 teams from around the world who registered in 2018, 17 teams from 10 countries were selected to compete in front of a live audience of more than 2,100 people over the two-day event. The physical robotic avatar technologies were tested on specific tasks that evaluated their ability to interact with humans, explore new environments, and employ specialised skills.
NimbRo, the robot competition team of the Autonomous Intelligent Systems lab of University of Bonn, Germany, won the grand prize of $10M.
“NimbRo’s work demonstrates the remarkable potential of avatar technology to transcend time and distance and help address urgent human challenges, from health care access to disaster relief,” said Anousheh Ansari, CEO of XPRIZE. “The final testing event was an exciting opportunity to share the power of telepresence with thousands of people in-person and around the world. We are grateful to all the participating teams for their impressive work and their efforts to boldly push technological boundaries.”
“The ANA Avatar XPRIZE demonstrates the power of avatar technology and its ability to strengthen our society and improve lives,” said Junko Yazawa, Executive Vice President of ANA. “These innovations, exemplified by the work of NimbRo and the other finalists, are a major step forward toward our goal of creating a more connected world.”
Pollen Robotics of Bordeaux, France and Team Northeastern of Boston, Mass. were announced as the second and third-prize winners, claiming $2M and $1M, respectively.
“Telepresence and avatar technology will be an essential part of human progress in the decades to come,” said David Locke, Executive Director, ANA Avatar XPRIZE. “Through the ANA Avatar XPRIZE, what we saw these past few days was a leap-ahead in this technology area that will make a difference in how people connect in the future. XPRIZE is proud to be a driving force behind these remarkable innovations.”
Image courtesy of the Autonomous Intelligent Systems lab of University of Bonn