Unlocking the power of teleportation

Teleportation has been a dream of science fiction and scientists alike. Dr Taehyun Rhee and his team are blending the real and the virtual to make it a reality.

Augmented Virtual Teleportation

What if with the flick of a switch you could immediately travel to a distant location to meet face-to-face and work alongside a project team in their remote studio? Or instantly appear front row at Glastonbury, rubbing shoulders with other fans just as your favourite band takes the stage.

Augmented Virtual Teleportation (AVT) is a new technology being developed by Dr Taehyun Rhee and his team at the University’s Computational Media Innovation Centre (CMIC) that enables remote telepresence.

Remote VR (virtual reality) ‘travellers’ are teleported to where the Augmented Reality (AR) hosts are located to interact in a shared augmented environment, enabling them to communicate, collaborate and exchange knowledge and ideas across any distance, as though they were in the same location.

“It will unlock the power of teleportation in a digital way, allowing distant people to come together to travel, work, learn and play in a way that we have not yet experienced,” says Dr Rhee, Co-Director of the CMIC and Associate Professor in the Wellington Faculty of Engineering.

Travelling is achieved by blending AR and VR technologies with the use of 360 degree video and live streaming to “blend virtual objects with live video in real time, and use high fidelity computer graphics with AR technology to seamlessly blend virtual objects into the shared space”.

Expanding possibilities

Removing the barrier of distance offers a vast range of applications for AVT, from business to tourism, and filmmaking to architecture.

Tourism is one area in which AVT is likely to have an impact, as people will be able to visit any place in the world without worrying about their safety to experience “a true virtual tour”.

“You can fully immerse in the space and communicate with the people there, realising the idea of teleportation and allowing mutual communication between people in different places.”

Attending live sports matches, concerts, or educational opportunities in person are all possible with this technology, and the ability to interact with shared virtual objects in a space provides many more possibilities for architecture, interior design and real estate.

One of the biggest impacts of the technology could be on the entertainment industry.

“Augmented Virtual Teleportation can be used for film and games, allowing us to jump into the middle of a movie scene and interact with the people there—like a combination of a movie and a play. It is an entirely new approach to entertainment media, and perhaps the future of it.”

Pioneering digital communication

Connection is at the heart of AVT for Dr Rhee and his team—creating a new method of digital interaction between people around the world who may otherwise be unable to meet.

“This is bi-directional communication that can create social collaboration between distant people. It will deliver meaningful new media for human communication.”

While already useable with current technology, the global adoption of 5G will expand the potential for AVT and enable the augmented environment to appear even more real and “have the quality to match human perception and cognitive thresholds”.

Adding other senses like touch and smell to the existing video and audio cues is the next step in expanding the teleportation experience, and one that could lead to “new ways of interaction we have not yet begun to imagine”.

A digital research hub

The aim of the Computational Media Innovation Centre is to enhance New Zealand’s interactive media ecosystem through user-oriented academic research. In practice, that means the Centre links innovative academic research with industry partners to explore opportunities for commercialisation.

“We provide an incubation space and prototyping staff to develop research ideas for realisation via start-ups or licensing.”

This is made possible through collaborations, partnerships and connections with national and international industry experts, including major international media organisations in areas such as VR/AR, film, animation, special effects, and gaming technologies.

“We can dream something, implement something, and experience something in the virtual space. We do not need to limit our imagination. If we can dream we can realise it.”