Pollen Robotics' Open Source Raspberry Pi-Powered Reachy Gets a VR Telepresence Upgrade at CES 2021

Available in addition to its autonomous operation modes, the new app makes Reachy the first humanoid VR-controlled telepresence bot around.

Gareth Halfacree
6 months agoRobotics / Virtual Reality

Pollen Robotics' Reachy, an open source, Raspberry Pi-powered robot launched at the Consumer Electronics Show last year, has received an upgrade for CES 2021: an option to turn into a gesture-mirroring telepresence robot controlled via virtual reality.

Built in a modular format with a body, one or more robot arms, and an "expressive head" designed to provoke emotional responses, Reachy was originally designed for autonomous operation. In a upgrade unveiled during the Consumer Electronics Show 2021 this week, though, Pollen Robotics turned Reachy into a telepresence robot — making it, the company claims, the first humanoid robot controlled through virtual reality available on the market.

A software upgrade to the Reachy robot provides full VR telepresence, and even guided learning. (📹: Pollen Robotics)

"This app allows you to place yourself in the body of a humanoid robot, in VR, wherever you are in the world, to remotely operate it and carry out complex tasks," the company explains in its announcement. "With this new functionality, Reachy is able to learn from the demonstration of the humans who control it, which makes application development even easier."

The upgrade is purely software: Reachy itself retains all the functionality of its original launch, with the new telepresence system incorporated as an additional "operational environment" on top of existing skills like playing noughts and crosses, musical instruments, and handing out arbitrary objects.

Reachy retains all its autonomous skills after the upgrade, with VR control presented as another app. (📹: Pollen Robotics)

Sadly, "available on the market" is something of a misnomer: Pollen has long since sold out of the initial 15-unit production run of Reachy robots, and there's currently no option to purchase a device through the company's website. It has, however, maintained an open source repository on GitHub which contains the software, 3D models, and documentation — though not, at the time of writing, the new virtual reality control system.

More information on Reachy is available on the Pollen Robotics website.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire: freelance@halfacree.co.uk.
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