What is teleoperation?

The term "teleoperation" refers to the operation of a system or machine at a distance. It is sometimes referred to as “remote control” and is most often associated with robotics and mobile robots. Teleoperated robots help human users complete both simple and complex tasks from a distance. Unlike autonomous robots, machines using teleoperation require a level of human involvement in order to function.

Teleoperation is often deployed in situations deemed too dangerous, complex, or costly for a human worker to perform. As a result, teleoperation is featured in a variety of applications from the military to healthcare, scientific discovery, and manufacturing.

How does teleoperation work?

Real-time SSH

A teleoperation system consists of two parts. It includes a telemanipulator that a human operator controls at a distance and a robotic device. The human operator uses the telemanipulator to send signals to the robotic device via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, radio signals, or other connections. The robotic device then carries out the functions. 

What are the benefits of using teleoperation?

There is a wide range of benefits for teleoperation, and they include:

  • Increased safety for human workers
  • Ability to explore unknown or dangerous environments
  • Cost-savings
  • Increased productivity

Examples of Teleoperated Robots

There are a variety of applications for teleoperation in robotics. Some of the most popular use cases include:

  • Remotely operated vehicles (ROV): It is the ability to drive or assist in operating the vehicle remotely. A typical example is a self-driving car.
  • Remote surgery: This is when a surgeon can complete an operation on a patient without being in the same physical location.
  • Uncrewed aerial vehicles: Often referred to as drones, this is an aircraft that flies without the physical presence of a human pilot, crew, or passengers. It is also known as a remotely piloted aircraft (RPA).
  • Bomb disposal robots: These teleoperated robots disable explosive devices while remotely controlled by a human operator at a distance.
  • Manufacturing machinery: These robotic devices can build automobiles, operate in a foundry, palletize consumer goods, and more. 

The Future of Teleoperation

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The world of teleoperation is shrinking when it comes to the telemanipulator. What was once massive, complex systems that required an advanced engineering degree to operate can now be found in your smartphone. The simplification of the telemanipulator device is making it possible for teleoperation to reach a wider audience. For example, with just a few taps of their phone screen, participants around the world were able to teleoperate Boston Dynamics’ robotic dog, Spot, on the streets of San Francisco. 

Another discipline that is impacting the future of teleoperation is the evolution of virtual reality (VR). It opens up a world where human operators can remotely access and control machinery using a virtual reality system like an HTC Vive headset and hand controls. This allows an operator to teleoperate robots from their own home rather than in a factory setting. 

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