Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Space Communications Science Technology

Telepresence — Our Best Bet For Exploring Space 309

Posted by Soulskill
from the until-we-perfect-the-bussard-ramjet dept.
Seth Shostak of the SETI Institute recently wrote an opinion piece for the NY Times discussing the limitations of our space technology. He makes the harsh point that transporting human beings to other star systems isn't a reasonable goal even on a multi-generational time frame. However, advances in robotics and data gathering could instead bring the planets and stars to us, and do it far sooner. Quoting: "Sending humans to the stars is simply not in the offing. But this is how we could survey other worlds, around other suns. We fling data-collecting, robotic craft to the stars. These proxy explorers can be very small, and consequently can be shot spaceward at tremendous speed even with the types of rockets now available. Robot probes don't require life support systems, don't get sick or claustrophobic and don't insist on round-trip tickets. ... These microbots would supply the information that, fed to computers, would allow us to explore alien planets in the same way that we navigate the virtual spaces of video games or wander through online environments like Second Life. High-tech masks and data gloves, sartorial accessories considerably more comfortable than a spacesuit, would permit you to see the landscape, touch objects and even smell the air."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Telepresence — Our Best Bet For Exploring Space

Comments Filter:
  • Latency (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TheLink (130905) on Sunday April 19, 2009 @01:22PM (#27637493) Journal
    Uh... Aren't they forgetting the inconvenient slowness of the speed of light?

    Unless they solve the FTL comms problem it takes seconds even for a short distance like Earth to Moon.

    So if you are going to explore some far away place, telepresence will still require you to ship some human to the general vicinity.
    • Re:Latency (Score:4, Funny)

      by LogarithmicSpiral (1463679) on Sunday April 19, 2009 @01:25PM (#27637529)
      You mean you still haven't figured out about the ansible?
    • by Kjella (173770)

      Uh... Aren't they forgetting the inconvenient slowness of the speed of light?

      Unless they solve the FTL comms problem it takes seconds even for a short distance like Earth to Moon.

      Yep. I guess this would be very useful for experiencing an alien place in a holodeck-like way, but it'll be all cached up. It's inevitable that to explore deep space we'll need autonomous robots, the 8.5 year round trip to the nearest star is a bit long to be waiting around...

    • Re:Latency (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Abcd1234 (188840) on Sunday April 19, 2009 @01:41PM (#27637607) Homepage

      Uh... Aren't they forgetting the inconvenient slowness of the speed of light?

      Yes, because a member of the SETI institute never thought of that.

      Honestly, Slashdotters really think *way* too highly of themselves... or way too little of the average scientist.

      So if you are going to explore some far away place, telepresence will still require you to ship some human to the general vicinity.

      No, because the idea isn't interactive exploration, in the sense that you remotely control the robotic probe in real time. The idea is that you collect massive amounts of data about a world, transmit it back, and then use that data to build a virtual model that you can then explore at your leisure.

      Of course, such an approach will have limitations (if you decide you want to see what's under a rock, unless you knew ahead of time to turn it over, you'd have to then send instructions to a probe and then wait for the new data to come back). But its certainly an interesting idea, IMHO.

      • Re:Latency (Score:5, Insightful)

        by TheLink (130905) on Sunday April 19, 2009 @01:58PM (#27637745) Journal
        It's fine for exploring nearby places like Mars. But other than that it doesn't solve the main problem.

        The nearest star is 4 light years away.

        If we really want to explore space we should seriously figure out plans and methods to construct space colonies that can build space colonies - and maybe one day, ones that can survive interstellar journeys.

        Then it doesn't matter so much how long we take to get to various places in the solar system or even the galaxy.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by durrr (1316311)
          If we really want to explore space we need to start with developing a propulsion system that would get the bloody colony ship to the target destination in say, less time than it takes for the colonists to evolve until they're about as related to us as bacteria.

          Our probe farthest from earth(voyager 1) is a puny 14-15 lightours away from the sun. And it's been at it for 32 years. If my mathemagics are right that means those puny 4 lightyears will take roughly 75000 years to travel.

          That's definitely not
          • The ORION spaceship project had a lot of promise, plus it theoretically scales very well with size (the larger it is, the more efficient). Minor detail: It requires letting off a bunch of nukes to get off the ground.
          • Our probe farthest from earth(voyager 1) is a puny 14-15 lightours away from the sun. And it's been at it for 32 years. If my mathemagics are right that means those puny 4 lightyears will take roughly 75000 years to travel.

            I doubt speed was high on the list of Voyager 1's priorities.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          The furthest traveled object (Voyager 1) has gone for over 30 years with very high speed and has not even left the planetary system yet (it is around the distance of Eris, ~110AU), not to mention Heliopause [1,2].

          Here is your flight map though: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Solarmap.png [wikipedia.org] (note: logarithmic)

          Can we ever overtake this? Good luck getting a object faster than Voyager 1.

          [1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Voyager_1_entering_heliosheath_region.jpg [wikipedia.org]
          [2] http://heavens-above.com/solar-escape.asp? [heavens-above.com]

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by maxume (22995)

        The author would have a much easier time making his case if he called it computer simulation instead of telepresence (which sort of implies a near real time experience) and referred to experiencing other worlds, rather than exploring them.

        I would say blame the journalist, but the author of the Op-ed works at the Seti Institute, so he probably knew exactly what he was doing.

        • We don't have a word for what he's describing. Technically the best word is telepresence but verryyyy laggy telepresence.
          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by maxume (22995)

            I don't really agree. I'm not an astronomer or anything, but I would think that most of the interesting science that is done using interstellar probes will end up being done via data analysis, not utilizing systems that simulate environmental engagement (if that doesn't describe the essence of telepresence, then the word doesn't mean anything anyway).

            So interstellar probes probably will be used to explore the universe, but describing something where input and feedback takes years as telepresence doesn't add

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Idiomatick (976696)
              Agreed. But what most scientists and nerd forget is what another poster said. If 95% of the population will pay MUCH more for football than science you are fucked. Telepresence might get people interested again. The main thing holding back NASA at the moment isn't their shitty new shuttles. It is PR, they don't have a groundswell of support. If there was a movement like the one to get a man on the moon we would be having massive innovation coming from every orifice. But most of the world doesn't care. So we
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by earlymon (1116185)

        Honestly, Slashdotters really think *way* too highly of themselves... or way too little of the average scientist.

        I believe the question was about whether this plan takes into account that there's a speed limit. Realistically, the best idea within our present technological imagination is either solar wind sails or ion drive. With either of those, the further you go, the faster you'll go. But at the halfway point of either of those technologies so far, you reverse the craft (drive) because it takes as long to decelerate that accelerate. Now, doing an rough order of magnitude calculation where you achieve half of the

    • "Uh... Aren't they forgetting the inconvenient slowness of the speed of light?"

      Send a craft with a virtual reality simulation of a crew running on board. On the journey have the VR simulation recreate contemporary earth culture. The VR program fabricates various crises for the 'crew' so as to keep them occupied and to distract them from the knowledge that they are in a simulation.

      When the craft arrives at the destination connect the VR simulation to robots through short-range-high-bandwidth radio conn
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Runaway1956 (1322357)

      Yeah. It won't be remote controlled robots, that's for sure.

      In general, we have a defeatist attitude regarding space exploration. I want to see people on the moon before I die. Even if it's only a VERY small colony with a dozen scientists and techs, with support personnel, it's a start. I want to hear plans for a Mars colony. Putting colonies in space will help to prevent the extermination of mankind due to a single cataclysmic event.

      A few people have died exploring space, and we whine and cower, afrai

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Joren (312641)

      Uh... Aren't they forgetting the inconvenient slowness of the speed of light? Unless they solve the FTL comms problem...

      Using quantum entanglement, that may not be so far off. If it turns out information can be transmitted near-instantaneously, telepresence could become a reality. Available bandwidth would only be limited by our capacity to create and address these particles and how fast we can read and write to them.

      Of course, that's a big "if"...

      • Re:Latency (Score:5, Funny)

        by Yvan256 (722131) on Sunday April 19, 2009 @01:59PM (#27637759) Homepage Journal

        ... followed by a big "else" and a big "end if".

    • I feel the author is ignore major points in the discussion. Yes, taking out the human factor makes space travel more attainable. The issues of designing a craft that will survive for the decades that it will take to reach distant planets is unrealistic. There are likely unexpected phenomena in interstellar space that we have yet to predict and would be unable to account for. Communication would be a logistical nightmare as the radio waves need to be aimed at a tiny speck once the space craft wanted to rel
      • by hedronist (233240) *

        Communication would be a logistical nightmare as the radio waves need to be aimed at a tiny speck once the space craft wanted to relay information.

        On the other hand, photon entanglement (or similar quantum-level entanglement <hand wave>) is (theoretically) unaffected by distance and does not have "aiming problems." This was SciFi when Ender's Game (1985) [wikipedia.org] was written, but it has now been used at distances > 140km and rising [quantum.at]. Give them a few more years and I'll bet we will see intra-solar system

  • by drolli (522659) on Sunday April 19, 2009 @01:25PM (#27637527) Journal
    really.
  • by Improv (2467)

    This planet is entirely populated by lag monsters!

  • 'Human' (Score:4, Interesting)

    by FlyingBishop (1293238) on Sunday April 19, 2009 @01:27PM (#27637541)

    The real first step in exploring the stars will be re-evaluating what it means to be human. This article assumes that our descendants will be flesh-and-blood, with all of the weaknesses that that entails. But why should we bind our offspring to the ancient, easily-corrupted, and not so easily amended DNA that we ourselves use, when we could give them minds of silicon and arms of steel which fold up in an instant to sleep for the journey from star to star? Or better still, why not send a simple automaton, and transmit its brain at the speed of light? Human is as human does, I suppose, and the human era will quickly draw to a close if we decide that human must mean flesh and blood.

    • Re:'Human' (Score:5, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 19, 2009 @01:41PM (#27637615)

      I find your idea fascinating, may I subscribe to your newsletter?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Yes! We could start out with robotic, sentient bipedal metal human analogs.

      But why limit them to exploration? They could also work in our factories, mines, and ... oh... even better - wage our wars. We could call them "Centurions", in honour of our ancient roman brothers. I suppose we could also give them one red back-and-forth scanning eye, too.

      Why does this all sound familiar suddenly?
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by catdriver (885089)
      Or, if you believe we're all about to have our personalities uploaded to the great singularity in the sky like Ray Kurzweil [kurzweilai.net], you could have an instance of you uploaded to a tiny computer-starship, and live in a virtual environment for the entire journey.

      For an interesting and entertaining take on this concept (and other singularity-related ideas) check out the novel Accelerando [accelerando.org] by Charles Stross [antipope.org].

      It's a great book by a fellow Slashdot user [slashdot.org], and you can download it free!

      (Then go buy some of his other
  • ...you are interested in something other than sports, iPods, and Coach bags.

    If your society can't be bothered, you're damned to spend more willingly on the NFL each year than you begrudge the entire space program.

    Enjoy your cell phone.

    kulakovich
    • The long term goal of all space exploration should be a permenant human presence on another planet, Mars most likely. All the science is great, but I want the human race to survive if the Earth takes a big hit.

      • by Yvan256 (722131)

        Earth already survived a Big Hit [imdb.com]. What makes you so sure we can't handle another one?

      • IF?!? (Score:2, Insightful)

        by symbolset (646467)

        I want the human race to survive if the Earth takes a big hit.

        Did you mean to write "when" instead of "if" here?

        • by Nyeerrmm (940927)

          Eh, we're at the level of technology where we can stop a wide variety of Earth impactors, and where we're pretty good at tracking them now. Given another 20 years of development, I wouldn't be surprised if it becomes routine to move potential impactors into non-threatening orbits.

          So as long as we maintain this level of technology, an assumption I'd say this whole argument hinges on, "if" is a more appropriate word. Of course, in the long-term, it's not hard to imagine a situation where we do lose that cap

    • I agree, we need to focus more on space exploration. There are some locations on Mars that would be kick-ass locations for Starbucks.

    • by grahamd0 (1129971)

      ...you are interested in something other than sports, iPods, and Coach bags.

      Personally, I'm a big supporter of the space program, but it's totally unrealistic and, I'd argue, immoral, to ask individuals to disregard their own interests for benefits that almost certainly won't be realized in their lifetimes and may very well never be realized at all.

      If your society can't be bothered, you're damned to spend more willingly on the NFL each year than you begrudge the entire space program.

      NASA's budget is approximately $18B/year [nasa.gov]. The NFL's revenue is approximately $6B/year [plunkettresearch.com].

      Enjoy your cell phone.

      Thanks, I do. I consider it to be a technological marvel, and a great example of how dedication to scientific research and technological achievement c

      • Personally, I'm a big supporter of the space program, but it's totally unrealistic and, I'd argue, immoral, to ask individuals to disregard their own interests for benefits that almost certainly won't be realized in their lifetimes and may very well never be realized at all.

        I completely agree. This is completely analogous to Social Security and the Federal Deficit. We should look out only for ourselves. It is totally immoral to care about the interests of our grandchildren after we are gone

        • by grahamd0 (1129971)

          I completely agree. This is completely analogous to Social Security and the Federal Deficit. We should look out only for ourselves. It is totally immoral to care about the interests of our grandchildren after we are gone

          I never suggested that it was immoral for you to care about your grandchildren.

          It's immoral for me to force you to care about your grandchildren.

          There's a big difference.

        • by grahamd0 (1129971)

          I completely agree. This is completely analogous to Social Security and the Federal Deficit. We should look out only for ourselves. It is totally immoral to care about the interests of our grandchildren after we are gone

          Addendum to my previous post:

          Your confusing me for an Objectivist got me a little off topic.

          What if you believe a better, more immediately productive way to insure the security of future generations is to spend money on new energy technologies, or even Social Security, here on Earth rather on manned space exploration?

          We live in a society with enough different and creative ideas and wealth that all of these choices can get a chance to prove themselves.

          As I mentioned previously, I support the space progra

  • by palegray.net (1195047) <philip.paradisNO@SPAMpalegray.net> on Sunday April 19, 2009 @01:45PM (#27637633) Homepage Journal
    Put me on the first ship that isn't coming back. I think the prospect of living out your life as part of a colony on its way to who-knows-where in the cosmos is a pretty neat idea.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gmuslera (3436)
      If that ships enables you to live (even in suspended life form) till you reach almost anywhere outside the solar system, probably you will be the only earth survivor by the time you reach there, at least with most current technologies. Sending seeds of human civilizations out there could well count as a backup system, specially counting the amount of times things happened here that could wipe the entire race or at the very least the current civilization.

      Sending "watchers" first, robots, AIs, telepresence, e
      • What risk? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by denzacar (181829)

        Sending "watchers" first, robots, AIs, telepresence, etc, could avoid some of the risks, but will we have enough time?

        If there is one resource we have a shitload more than we need or know how to handle its - people. Should we really care for their safety back on Earth?
        1.8 people die every second. 106 every minute. Do we hold a minute of silence for those 106 every other minute? People are highly expendable.

        Safety is not a problem. If you send colony ships time is also not a problem. Even technology is not really a problem - even now.

        Problem is in the liftoff price per kilogram.
        Once we get it down to around the price of an

        • We need modern dirigibles. They would be lighter than air. The launched ship wouldn't even need to be very big. If it is to be hone of a colony, it can be enlarged as the population increases. All you would need is a source of materials for enlarging the skeleton and generating more gas. If not carried on board, we can use robotic scout vehicles to search among the asteroids. Once, in space, the actual gas isn't very important, I would recommend that it be something breathable by humans, animals, and o

        • by gmuslera (3436)
          People is cheap. Capacited enough people isnt so. Sending people far enough out is definately expensive (not just because the liftoff cost, engine/survival matters too). Those costs counts as risks too.

          About the liftoff cost, if we have ever an space elevator costs them could go a bit down. Till them, sending anything far is so expensive that any kind of fail is a big risk.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by siriuskase (679431)

        You or any other individual doesn't need to live that long. All you need is to create a vehicle that can be a comfortable home to a group of people who can live together and reproduce without killing each other off. They can work at maintaining the vehicle, producting food, and use simulations for entertainment and exercise. If the group doesn't contain pairs that can breed safely, even that can be acomplished with in vitro fertilization, using simulations of better than the real thing to make it more fu

  • And I thought GoLive had a lag time challenge.
    • by grahamd0 (1129971)

      GoLive will probably get the juicy contract for setting up the data networks for any far reaching space exploration.

      With their new, proprietary FTL compression algorithms, they have the technology to render HD quality video in the cloud and transmit it to end users in better than real-time.

  • by Absolut187 (816431) on Sunday April 19, 2009 @01:47PM (#27637645) Homepage

    "Alas, despite these snappier speeds, such craft are still untenable for manned journeys to the stars, taking at least a dozen lifetimes to reach the nearest."

    The closer you get to the speed of light, the slower time goes (relative to home).

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_dilation#Simple_inference_of_time_dilation [wikipedia.org]

    So while the distance to the nearest star system is (let's say) 100 light years (in earth time frame), a traveler at a velocity 0.9 times the speed of light will make the trip in only a few years (in his time frame).

    What we need is really really fast ships, and astronauts willing to say goodbye to everyone they know on earth.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Runaway1956 (1322357)

      I'm ready. Hell, I'm 52 (errrr, uhhhhm, 53 tomorrow) and I'm ready to go. What's wrong with the younger generation? For that matter, what's wrong with MY GENERATION?!?!?!

      Build that big assed Roman Candle, give me some room and some food, and light that bastard off!!

      • 3 weeks after reaching the new star system. Hmm... guess I'll just off myself now. We need more in place. The ability to MOVE there would do it. We'd fork into a group of earth folk and space faring folk. With the earth so incredibly tiny the last few years it is hard for us as a society to give up being connected. But 500years ago people could do it I'm sure there would be enough people willing to do it now. Actually I think some people would be willing to zoom around the earth at light speed to go into th
      • by earlymon (1116185)

        Build that big assed Roman Candle, give me some room and some food, and light that bastard off!!

        Wow - you really know how to party for your birthday!

        I'm hoping we can use this upcoming SETI tech so you can invite me to the next one!

    • by Kjella (173770)

      The closer you get to the speed of light, the slower time goes (relative to home).

      Only at significant fractions of c. Accelerating and decelerating people to those speeds will take many years.

      • So I guess the questions are:

        (A) What is the maximum acceleration that the human body can withstand?

        (B) At that acceleration, how long does it take to reach a significant fraction of c?

        • by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Sunday April 19, 2009 @02:42PM (#27638061)

          (A) What is the maximum acceleration that the human body can withstand?

          Who cares, we're not going to be accelerating at much more than 1g in any case, and probably a great deal less.

          (B) At that acceleration, how long does it take to reach a significant fraction of c?

          0.95c is about turnover speed for a 1g trip to Alpha Centauri. It'll take about 21 months to reach that speed, and another 21 months to stop. So Alpha Centauri at 1g is about 3.5 years away.

          Everything else is farther, of course. But not a lot farther, since you've done the slow part already. Twenty years can get you anywhere in the galaxy at one g.

          • Everything else is farther, of course. But not a lot farther, since you've done the slow part already. Twenty years can get you anywhere in the galaxy at one g.

            Huh? The galaxy is 100,000 light years across. Even at .95c, that's a lot longer than twenty years... or were you planning to accelerate past c?

            • by Sir_Lewk (967686)

              You are missing how time dilation works, it's not linear.

              If the distance is greater than a few lightyears then you are going to be moving faster than .95c, say perhaps .98. At that speed the effects of time dilation are going to be even greater.

              • Ah, okay-- I misunderstood. I didn't realize he was talking about 20 years in the traveler's frame of reference.

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by d474 (695126)

            Twenty years can get you anywhere in the galaxy at one g.

            Try 74,000 years. Our Milky Way galaxy is approx. 100,000 light-years in diameter. We are about 26,000 light-years from the center. Even at the speed of light, it would still take us 74,000 years to reach the far side of the Milky Way galaxy.

            Twenty years would only get us, well, about 20 light years away from our Solar System which is drop in the bucket compared to the size of our galaxy.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by rcw-home (122017)

          A: For extremely short durations, a small sample size of humans have survived 150G. However, the green 50G shock stickers are commonly used on dummies to equate to major injury. 9G is about the most anyone can take without blacking out, even lying down. I suspect for long-term endurance you may be limited to 2 or 3G and even that would require extreme physical training.

          B: Google calculator can easily answer this one: http://www.google.com/search?q=c%2F(9.8m%2Fs^2*3) [google.com]. Replace the 3 with whatever acceleratio

      • At a constant deceleration of 10gs it would only take a month. This is survivable by humans probably in good conditions as provided by a spaceship. 5gs is definitely survivable for 2months. I take it you are using current ship speeds.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Humans can sustain an acceleration of 10m/s^2 (a little more than 1g). One day (86,400s) would lead to a speed of 864,00m/s. To reach a speed of .9c (270,000,000m/s) would require about a year. It would require the same amount of time to decelerate. The problem is that even a speed of .9c does not give you much time dilation. We have gamma=1/sqrt(1-.9^2), which is 1/sqrt(1-.81) or 1/sqrt(.19), which is 1/.44, or about 2.3. Hence, one would age 44 years on a 100-light-year voyage.

    • So while the distance to the nearest star system is (let's say) 100 light years (in earth time frame), a traveler at a velocity 0.9 times the speed of light will make the trip in only a few years (in his time frame).

      48 years to go 100 light years at 0.9c. That's a bit more than "a few years".

    • by Nyeerrmm (940927)

      In order to get really really fast ships, with some kind of propulsion that could get you up to 0.9 c. Typical rocket propulsion hits a law of diminishing returns limit at around 0.35 c... based on that, I tend to see very high subluminal speeds as not much different on the technological scale as the various types of superluminal travel. That is we can see ways where you can do it without breaking the laws of physics, but any actual, practical technology to do it is as yet unimaginable.

      Actually, as I'm wr

  • Sooner or later (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Sunday April 19, 2009 @01:51PM (#27637679)
    we are going to have to put some human beings somewhere else besides this one ball of rock.

    Saying that even multi-generational ships are not "a reasonable goal" begs the question (and is debatable... after all, this is an "opinion piece").

    Reasonable or not, eventually it will be done. I have nothing against robotic explorers, but only as precursors to something better.
    • by dkf (304284)

      we are going to have to put some human beings somewhere else besides this one ball of rock.

      That's not true. We could let the human race go extinct instead. Much cheaper. The true economist's choice.

  • Idiots (Score:4, Interesting)

    by SuperKendall (25149) on Sunday April 19, 2009 @01:51PM (#27637683)

    Not the proposal exactly (well with latency actually yes), but...

    Robot probes don't require life support systems, don't get sick or claustrophobic and don't insist on round-trip tickets.

    They also can't use intuition and years of training and curiosity combined to go, "hey what's that" as they glance over to the side at something a rover would have just rolled past.

    We could learn more in a day of manned exploration of Mars for example than we have with the entire exploration effort to date.

    Humans are too flexible not to send out for exploration, and I hate to say it but far cheaper to build (though again you have the issue of latency).

    I also refuse to believe we'll never be able to freeze and re-animate a living person hundreds of years later, though that will take a good long while to get right.

    • by Yvan256 (722131)

      I also refuse to believe we'll never be able to freeze and re-animate a living person hundreds of years later, though that will take a good long while to get right.

      Futurama did it!

  • Erm (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    The humans on earth can only "experience" what has been observed by the remote observer. If the remote observer passes by a planet and scans it at a great distance, the human explorer will be placed into a distorted bizarro world with poor resolution, and lifting a rock cannot be done because the remote explorer could not check to see what was under the rock.

    Alternatively, you can have an AI "fill in the gaps" and assume what was under the rock. In that case you might as well play a video game.

  • Misleading article (Score:5, Insightful)

    by janoc (699997) on Sunday April 19, 2009 @01:52PM (#27637691)
    Unfortunately, the author doesn't have a clue what he is talking about. He seems to be talking about sending a probe, collecting information and then building an offline environment to explore, not a real-time remotely-controlled robot. That is actually a potentially feasible task. It has only one major flaw - it is not telepresence.

    For telepresence ("feeling being present in a remote place") you need to be able to have real-time response to your actions, not only watching what essentially amounts to a souped up QuicktimeVR. The interactivity is not optional and that doesn't come from VR goggles and gloves but from the realtime feedback look. Which is obviously missing, unless your want to do something like use alien planet data for playing CounterStrike or be happy with 6.47*10^11 ms ping ... (that is the roundtrip time to Epsilon Eridani mentioned in the article - 10.5 light years away).

    It is a pity that people talk about virtual reality and related fields without even understanding the basics - but that is the consequence of media hype surrounding this field, together with people calling non-immersive, often even non-interactive applications "virtual reality". Computer games, SecondLife, QuicktimeVR are not VR, period - you cannot really achieve meaningful feeling of presence there. Of course, it sounds and sells better if you stick a gee-whizz sticker on the box ...

    • Of course, it sounds and sells better if you stick a gee-whizz sticker on the box ...

      "Windows Vista Capable" ?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    My God ... It's full of flying phalluses

  • Wait, do Klingons use Webex? I know the Borgs Twitter but it's always the same line over and over. They've got a social network that would make Facebook look absolutely amateurish.
  • by gmuslera (3436)
    What to do if something unespected happens? Abort, Retry or Fail?

    Telepresence will enable us to see what happened a lot of time ago, but takes out human choices for all practical reasons for interesting enough distances.
  • by Alaska Jack (679307) on Sunday April 19, 2009 @02:39PM (#27638025) Journal

    More advanced robots, that we developed (along with much faster propulsion systems) in the decades since the originals were launched.

    Hat tip: Carl Sagan, I think. Or maybe Azimov.

        - Alaska Jack

  • The problem with exploring robots is that they can never discover anything that they weren't DESIGNED to discover. All you can do is to confirm or deny your original biases; they can't discover anything NEW. No serendipitous discoveries.

    Sort of like where we are right now with explorations of Mars; the first Mars Rover searched for life and didn't find any. Now the Mars polar probe has discovered what may be anomalous methane readings - but we can't remotely reconfigure the probe to figure out what we

  • Silly argument (Score:3, Insightful)

    by horza (87255) on Sunday April 19, 2009 @04:21PM (#27638973) Homepage

    Here's an idea... we can do what we've always done which is BOTH. We were putting men on the moon and planning men on mars whilst sending 'telepresence' probes to Saturn and Jupiter. We can put men on mars and plan to orbit further out whilst out 'telepresence' maps out Pluto and beyond. And we continue to push outwards with the probes paving the way with their data and humans following up and doing what we do best.

    Phillip.

Real Programmers don't write in PL/I. PL/I is for programmers who can't decide whether to write in COBOL or FORTRAN.

Working...