Seeking Others who want to develop humanoid robotic avatars
Saurabh Sogi, a senior majoring in computer science at the University of Houston, is putting together a team – called PRIME – to compete in the $10 million ANA Avatar XPRIZE.
The four-year global competition focuses on the development of a humanoid robotic avatar system that will transport a human’s senses, actions, and presence to a remote location in real time. The aim is to create a more connected world.
Many experts think robotic avatars could help humans overcome challenges of distance, time and more. Avatars could one day work in disaster zones too dangerous for humans; help provide remote medical care to patients with limited health care access; and do other critical work requiring specialized skillsets.
PRIME is an interdisciplinary team focused on the following technologies: robotics, artificial intelligence, brain-machine interface, haptic/force feedback, machine learning, virtual reality, computer vision, low-latency networking, CAD, 3D printing and more.
“I enjoy starting projects and entering competitions that have great potential to benefit the world,” said Sogi, who is leading the multi-university team.
Sogi has accrued impressive experience when it comes to team projects. As a freshman, he put together a three-member team, BIT PLEASE, to compete in the 2016-2017 NASA Space Robotics Challenge. BIT PLEASE was selected from among 92 international teams as one of 20 finalists and won $15,000 from NASA for qualifying for the final round.
He also founded and led two UH Hyperloop teams, in the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 period, to compete in the SpaceX Hyperloop Competition. As part of that experience, Sogi and a subset of the team built a massive Hangprinter ¬– a frameless 3D printer – by improving on open-source designs. Sogi plans to use the printer extensively for the ANA Avatar XPRIZE competition.
Two members from previous teams are also part of PRIME – Parth Raina, a neuroscience graduate from the University of Texas in Dallas; and Rithvik Dyava, a sophomore majoring in computer engineering at the University of Texas in Austin. Sogi is seeking other students, faculty, industry experts, inventors, and other visionaries with commitment and abilities to contribute to the project.
Team members will embark on a three-year development path, culminating in a Grand Prize Winner announcement in April 2022.
Individuals interested in joining PRIME can apply here.
Two UH Cullen College of Engineering faculty – Badri Roysam, professor and department chair of electrical and computer engineering; and Aaron Becker, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering – are serving as faculty advisors to PRIME. The team also has advisors from the UH College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics and Rice University.
“I’m excited to see students and faculty take on this incredible challenge,” Roysam said. “The potential advancements of avatar technology can spark inspiration for more extraordinary technologies.”
Becker, who also advised Sogi for the NASA challenge, is excited about the new project.
“Our UH students are unafraid to tackle big projects, and strive on some of the hardest challenges in robotics today,” Becker said. “One thing I really appreciate about Sogi and his team is that they learn by doing in an exciting design-build-test cycle.”
PRIME’s sponsors include the Cullen College and the Division of Research at UH, along with industry sponsors Omni Gear and Piping Technology and Products Inc.
For more information about the ANA Avatar XPRIZE competition, visit: https://avatar.xprize.org/prizes/avatar
Here's hangprinter video shared by Sogi: