USC Researcher Uses a Robot as a Real Roving Reporter
Telepresence experiment studies how interview subjects in Spain will respond to questions posed by a robot being operated in LA
Who/What: Researcher Nonny de la Peña, a pioneering immersive journalist and USC Ph.D student who is exploring how new technologies can be used in journalism, is going to be interviewing researchers and activists in Spain via a robot. De la Peña will be operating the robot wearing a motion capture suit (like the ones used in Avatar) at the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies’ Mixed Reality Lab in Playa Vista. Her movements and interactions will be relayed into the robot, which will be in Spain with the interview subjects. Her gestures and gaze will be replicated by the robot, in order to create a communication experience that goes beyond talking on a phone or using Skype.
Why: Aside from being interesting topics (the AIDS researchers’ breakthroughs and the Catalan independence movement), this is an experiment in telepresence – exploring what it means to have the reporter in the room (as a robot) interviewing the subjects in Spain from the lab here in LA. This project is part of a larger EU-funded research investigating how a person can visit a remote location feel fully immersed in the new environment. Will a reporter get to “go” to the moon next? Travel to a dangerous frontline story during a revolution? Walk the bottom of the ocean? To our knowledge, this will be the first time a reporter is driving a robot to do an interview. Talk about advancing the story!