Complex remote action
A surgeon in Utrecht performs a complex operation in Tokyo. This kind of activity requires a fast network, advanced robotics, and extremely high-quality video.
At SURFnet’s Relatiedagen, we are demonstrating how a robot arm can be operated from 1800 kilometres away without any delay. We are explaining the network, the robotics, and the video in a series of blogs. Today’s blog focuses on the demonstration itself.
The technology is available
In the future, a lot of complex specialist actions will be carried out remotely, particularly in the medical sector, for example surgical operations. There are also possibilities in industry. Remote action like this can save a lot of money. This demonstration shows that the technology is already ready.
The demonstration enables visitors to the Contact Days to play a game based on the Leaning Tower of Pisa. They play in Noordwijkerhout (near Amsterdam) but the game takes place physically in Poznań (Poland), 900 kilometres away. Which means that the light signals travel 1800 kilometres.
This requires three components:
The HapticMaster at the University of Twente’s Virtual Reality Lab (VR Lab) is a robot arm that follows and transmits movements extremely precisely. It can also process counterpressure. In the demonstration, there is one HapticMaster in Noordwijkerhout and another in Poznań. When the user operates his HapticMaster, the HapticMaster at the other end copies his movements exactly. If the HapticMaster in Poznań presses against something, the user in Noordwijkerhout feels the exact same counterpressure. This makes it possible to carry out actions remotely as if there were no distance between the two HapticMasters.
Video is needed in order to provide feedback on the actions carried out by the operator so that he can see what he is doing. The demonstration shows two different types of video technology: 4K video (video with the extremely high resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels) and 3D video. Each has its own advantages: 4K video has a higher resolution and is probably better if you want to see whether everything is in the right place, while 3D video can be more suitable to provide feedback on the actions that are carried out (after all, they take place in three dimensions).
Extremely fast network connection
There must be no noticeable time difference between the action by the operator of the HapticMaster and the action that then takes place remotely. For this demonstration, a 40 Gbit/s connection has been created between Noordwijkerhout and Poznań. This ensures that there is no delay in the robotics and the video transmission.
SURFnet has gained a great deal of experience in the past few years with a fast network, robotics, and high-quality video. Direct connections have been created with CERN in Geneva, for example. There has already been a demonstration with the HapticMaster in Twente, and SURFnet has contributed to the wide application of 4K video. In this demonstration, we are bringing together all that experience.
When we thought up the demonstration early this year, we focussed on the most innovative technology in the area of the network, robotics, and video. Some of the necessary technology was not even available at the time, and we therefore had to assume that we would have access to the technology we needed by October. The suspense was almost unbearable! In March, for example, it was not yet possible to stream 4K video live – as required for the demo – and the necessary network connection was not yet possible either.
All the technological conditions are now in place thanks to the selfless cooperation of a lot of people, both in the Netherlands and internationally. We are working with the VR Lab in Twente, the Polish PSNC network, and the Canadian supplier of network equipment Ciena. The demonstration can therefore take place as we designed it. Come and watch!
Read all blogs regarding the robot arm demonstration:
- About the HapticMaster robot arm: HapticMaster transmits movements over enormous distance in real time
- About the network connection: Unique 40 Gbit/s connection across 1800 kilometres
- About video: 3D and 4K video for demonstration using HapticMaster