The aim of this proposal is to enable people to control robots remotely using virtual reality. Using cameras mounted on the robot and a virtual reality headset, a person can see the environment around the robot. However, controlling the robot using existing technologies is hard: there is a time delay because it’s slow to send high quality video over the Internet. In addition, the fidelity of the image is worse than looking through human eyes, with a fixed and narrow view. This proposal will address these limitations by creating a new system which understands the geometry and appearance of the robot’s environment. Instead of sending high-quality video over the Internet, this new system will only send a smaller amount of information about how the environment’s geometry and appearance has changed over time. Further, understanding the geometry and appearance will let us expand the view visible to the person. Overall, these will improve a human’s ability to remotely control the robot by increasing fidelity and responsiveness. We will demonstrate this technology on household tasks, on assembly tasks, and by manipulating small objects.

The aim of this proposal is to test the hypothesis that integrating scene and networking understanding can enable efficient transmission and rendering for dexterous control of remote robots through virtual reality interfaces. This system will result in dexterous teleoperation that enables remote human operators to perform complex tasks with remote robot manipulators, such as cleaning a room or repairing a machine. Such tasks have not previously been demonstrated to be teleoperated for two reasons: 1) lack of an intuitive awareness and understanding of the scene around the remote robot, and 2) lack of an effective low-latency interface to control the robot. We will address these problems by creating new scene- and network-aware algorithms which tightly couple sensing, display, interaction and transmission, enabling the operator to quickly and intuitively understand the environment around the robot. This project will research new interfaces which allow the operator to use their hand to directly specify the robot’s end effector pose in six degrees of freedom, combined with spatial- and semantic-object-based models that allow safe high-level commands. This project will evaluate the proposed system by assessing the speed and accuracy of the remote operator’s ability to complete complex tasks, including assembly tasks; the aim will be to complete unstructured assembly tasks that have never been demonstrated to be remotely teleoperated before.

This project is in response to the NSF Cyber-Physical Systems 20-563 solicitation.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Computer and Network Systems (CNS)
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Linda Bushnell
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Brown University
United States
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