The PR2 telepresence robots can be inhabited by Oculus Rift wearing human controllers (Photo credit: David Gossow, Willow Garage)
You may have heard of companies like oDesk that provide freelance remote office workers around the world. With some exceptions, these workers come from developing countries where wages are relatively low, but skills and education are high. Although some people in developed countries see this type of labor as exploitative, the truth is that it shifts money out of a developed economy and into a growing developing one where the wage goes farther.
Expect this trend to continue with better access to fiber optic high speed Internet connections around the world. While currently remote workers are limited to IT type desk jobs– telepresent robots and VR rigs will allow international workers to do almost any job that a local worker could do.
The PR2 Surrogate is a software system that connects Oculus Rift VR goggles to a fully mobile telepresent robot. The operator sees through the robot’s eyes, can move and even grasp objects.
Telepresence has vast implications for societal upheaval - how will local labor markets in developed countries adjust to workers that are “beamed” into their area? One implication is a steady shift of wages to these developing countries and the employment agencies that control the systems. Another implication is that the vehicular transport of labor, whether local or overseas will be greatly reduced – don’t be surprised if in the near future your dentist works from home in Manilla, but fills cavities in Los Angeles.