Nothing captured the imagination of audiences quite like James Cameron’s 2009 film, Avatar. Aside from transporting viewers to a spectacular moon located light years away from Earth, the film showcased another technology – remotely controlled artificial bodies.

Could this technology ever become a reality?

The act of remotely controlling a body via signals sent from the brain through a computer network may be beyond the realm of current technology, but counterparts are seeing development presently – with a range of exciting applications.

In the near future, remotely controlled robots may be utilised to perform a number of tasks either too difficult or dangerous for humans. Things like radiation cleanup after a nuclear disaster, complex deep sea repairs and even interstellar exploration.

The stars are exactly where space agency NASA has turned its robotic focus, with development well underway of a remotely controlled robot called Robonaut or robotic astronaut. These Avatar-like technologies sport two humanoid arms mounted to an upper torso, and a head embedded with a variety of sensors and cameras.

While not controlled by mind control, the link between robot and human will continue to grow as development progresses. Eventually, being able to feel what the robot is feeling is possible through tactile sensors implanted in the hands. This ability could mean remote exploration of other planets with no risk.

Recently, development has focused on sending two legs to the remote robot, in order to enable a greater array of uses on the space station. The additional legs enable the robot to grab objects and move freely around the exterior of the station, conducting repairs.

Mind control of robotic machines may never be likely, but virtual reality and advanced sensors can certainly provide a comparable experience. Developments in these areas will be of great help in the near future, freeing humans to avoid dangerous tasks.

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