Personal Telepresence Journal

Monday, December 12, 2005

read book now




BOOK Reviews


Volume 2, Issue 1


"Take Two"


Copyright 1998 by David H. Mitchell

read book now




 David Mitchell is a member of the Citizen's Advisory Council on National Space Policy, a long time friend, and an entrepreneur who has thought a lot about telepresence. Please welcome him aboard.  -- Jerry Pournelle



Take Two…

Several years ago I wrote a column on telepresence for PCVR magazine. This excellent, but short-lived magazine was edited and published by Joe Gradecki. It is absolutely amazing what progress has been made in the telepresence field. So, this Personal Telepresence Journal is "take two" of that column.

The goal will be to cover telepresence projects and progress, both large and small. My special emphasis will be on "personal, affordable" telepresence and new uses for telepresence – from space colonization to home teletoys – and everything in between.


But, what is telepresence?" - you say…

I’m so glad you asked! <grin>

A while back I wrote the closing chapter in the Sam’s publication "Internet Unleashed". Virtual Reality, teleoperations, telepresence and the future of the Internet were interwoven with the future of space exploration. A lot of definitions were bounced around.

The short definition is this:

Telepresence is being able to pick up a glass of water 3 feet or 3000 miles away with equal ease.

Put another way, its remote control with an attitude!

We can quibble later about the difference between virtual reality, telepresence and teleoperations. There are a number of other "tele" definitions that have been coined that we’ll explore in future issues of this journal.



Your Wish is My Command…

Inspired by Dr. Jerry Pournelle’s now classic law ("Everyone should have a computer"), I have developed a correlary which I naturally call Mitchell’s Law. Mitchell’s Law is "Everyone should have an Android Agent".

When Pournelle first proclaimed the amazing concept that everyone should have their own computer, this was indeed a revolutionary concept. Like most radical ideas it went through the 3 stages of "impossible", "economically infeasible" and

"of course".

Right now the idea of everyone having a remote-controlled humanoid robot or Android Agent borders on the impossible. In a few years it will merely be economically infeasible. Eventually, Hertz and Avis will be renting telebodies for business teletravelers. Teletravelers will make 10 meetings worldwide in a day that might take a year in person.

And, finally, everyone will have an Android Agent in their closet so people can televisit you anytime. And, yes, there will be an ON/OFF switch. And, yes, someone will leave it ON at the wrong time and, yes, someone will be burglarized by robot. Any tool can be misused, etc. Please don’t email me about how terrible this will be – unless you really don’t use a car and don’t use anything delivered or made using one! If we can handle cars and all of that impact on society, if we can handle personal computers and all of that impact on society, I think we can handle some fancy RC <grin>

Note that this has some interesting unexpected societal impact – since telepresence actually makes the concepts of teleportation and a form of immortality possible. Consider, teleportation is considered the ability to instantly be somewhere else. Well, with an Android Agent at your disposal (via rental, lease or timeshare) you can pop out of a "phone booth" (or Tardis? <grin>) anywhere. And, very dangerous jobs and ultrahigh-risk sports are now possible with essentially no risk to you. The timeshare concept allows you to take turns (for example) climbing out of a volcano, walking on the moon or assembling a space colony in orbit.

Pournelle and Niven had one character in the book "Oath of Fealty" that made his living teleoperating a bulldozer on the moon while staying firmly planted on terra firma. The point is, there are very basic, economically sound reasons to use telepresence. By the way, Caterpillar Tractor already does some amazing things. Again, to be covered in future issues. Uses can include everything from security patrols to gardening. People with physical limitations would now be able to participate economically in physical job sectors as well as intellectual ones. And, since telepresence has the inherent 24x7 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week) capability, it makes it easy for people living in one time zone to work in another

time zone. The human factors possibilities are endless since "grave yard" shifts are often disruptive. Working during "your day" and "your employers night" can and will have interesting effects. What is overtime, for example?



Hello, Earth to David…

So, what about now?


Where to begin. The history of the Lunar Teleoperations Model 1 and 2. The DC-X aka Delta Clipper aka Clipper Graham. The Russian/American Planetary Rover. The ISE lunar rover. Lego Mindstorms. Webcams. Teletelescopes.

My cable modem email address is


It is enjoyable to use the web in an interactive mode. So, email me what areas you would like discussed. Questions, information to share, pointers – just email me. The next issue will include direction from you. Think of this journal as being remote controlled <grin>

And, do a search on telepresence if you have time. There is a lot going on out there.

Just to leave a bit of a teaser – what would someone like me do with a high-speed cable modem connection, streaming video and an interest in personal telepresence as a quick hobby project?


- 30 -



David "42" Mitchell is an inventor and entrepreneur with over 25 years experience in the electronic security field. David42 has used the Internet since 1972, when it was still called the ARPAnet. (Back then, he used an ASR33 Teletype to dial up access at 110 bits per second with an acoustic modem. Today, he uses a small LAN of PC's to access the Internet at 10,000,000 bits per second with a cable modem.) David42 has been associated with Dr. Jerry Pournelle for over 9 years on the BIX online system. David42 has done pioneering research on affordable Virtual Reality, Teleoperations and Telepresence. Some of this research resulted in a NASA award in 1997 on planetary rover command, control and communication systems. Indeed, David42 won the first unofficial Mars rover tele-operations race at JPL in Pasadena - while he was in Laguna Beach!




birdline.gif (1428 bytes)