XPRIZE Announces New $10 Million Competition To Try And Make A Real-Life Avatar


Jonathan O'Callaghan

Senior Staff Writer


A new competition has been announced to develop real-life Avatars, in the hope of spurring development of advanced robots in the near future.

The ANA Avatar XPRIZE, announced yesterday at SXSW in Texas, will give $10 million to teams that can show off a robotic avatar controlled remotely by a human at least 100 kilometers (62 miles) away. The operator must be untrained but still able to complete some simple and complex tasks.


People can register their interest on the website now, with the competition formally opening to entrants on June 15 and closing on October 31, 2018.

“Our ability to physically experience another geographic location, or to provide on-the-ground assistance where needed, is limited by cost and the simple availability of time,” Peter Diamandis, the founder of XPRIZE, said in a statement.

“The ANA Avatar XPRIZE can enable creation of an audacious alternative that could bypass these limitations allowing us to more rapidly and efficiently distribute skill and hands-on expertise to distant geographic locations where they are needed, bridging the gap between distance, time and cultures.”

XPRIZE is famous for its audacious competitions to try and spur development in particular areas. Perhaps the most famous was the Ansari XPRIZE, a competition to develop a reusable space plane, won by SpaceShipOne in 2004 – which was later acquired by Virgin Galactic.


More recently, a race to the Moon dubbed the Lunar XPRIZE was canceled when it became clear none of the competitors would meet the competition’s deadline. The Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE, meanwhile, has just selected its finalists to map a chunk of the ocean.

The idea this time around is to try and improve our ability to work remotely. Robots could theoretically let humans access dangerous areas like inside a blaze or a radiation hotspot, without risk of injuring anyone.

The robots developed by the teams will need to be able to “remotely see, hear, and interact with physical environments and other people.” The exact goals of the competition have not yet been set, although we do know there will be two milestones worth $1 million each in April 2020 and April 2021, followed by the $8 million grand prize in October 2021.

Primitive avatars have been developed before, and remotely operating robots has been something particularly studied in spaceflight – known as telerobotics. It remains to be seen whether this competition will lead to something far more advanced than already exists, although maybe don’t go expecting James Cameron-esque Na’vi just yet.


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