Robots and things on wheels make up Hyundai’s vision of ‘Metamobility’

Bridging virtual and actual reality
by Sharleen Banzon | Jan 6, 2022
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PHOTO: Hyundai
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Depending on how much you’ve managed to wrap your head around the concept of the metaverse, this could be a lot to take in. At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Hyundai presented its vision for future mobility, and it featured more robots, wheeled inanimate objects, and references to virtual reality than the usual transport solutions we’re all familiar with.

So, welcome to the age of Metamobility. In case you’re overwhelmed, take heart in the fact that the Korean carmaker’s rendering of this future world, pictured above, still shows people walking instead of just being wheeled off by self-driving pods to their destinations. And look, there’s even a real dog checking out his robotic counterpart Spot.

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Hyundai’s concept of ‘Expanding Human Reach,’ as presented at CES 2022, can be broken down into two parts. The first is the robotics-based Mobility of Things (MoT) ecosystem, “wherein traditionally inanimate things, from small objects to community spaces, will gain mobility using the company’s robotics technologies.”

Propelling these objects around your living space or across town is the PnD (Plug & Drive) modular platform, which combines electric drive, steering, braking, and navigation functions within a single-wheel structure that can be scaled up or down for any purpose. It’s sort of like a caster wheel, but make it electric, autonomous, and smart-device-connected. It can be attached to anything you want to move—maybe your snack cabinet, grandma’s cane holder, or the bed of the cat that refuses to come when called.

It can even be used to reconfigure the layout of, say, a shared office (imagine the money people deploying partitions, tables, and filing cabinets in your path when they sense you’re walking over to ask for more budget). Hyundai also envisions applications of the technology for PWD mobility, automated logistics, and public transport “with individual compartments for social distancing and last-mile mobility.”

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There’s a second module called DnL (Drive & Lift), which pairs with the MobEd (Mobile Eccentric Droid) platform to cart things around even on uneven terrain. It’s like a skateboard that stays level over the rough stuff.

Now, on to the second part of the presentation—Metamobility itself. This is where the robots come in to “act as a medium between the real world and virtual spaces, enabling users to make changes in the metaverse to be reflected in reality.”

Say you’re on a work trip, but there are chores you need to do at home—feeding your pet, for example. You can head into your ‘house’ in the metaverse, and, using a VR interface, control a robotic avatar of yourself in your actual house to give Thomas the cat his dinner. The application could be as simple as that, or as advanced as having remote specialists controlling proxy robots at workplaces across the globe. Or proxy robots at disaster areas. Or proxy robots on another planet.

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“The idea behind Metamobility is that space, time and distance will all become irrelevant,” said Chang Song, president and head of Hyundai’s Transportation-as-a-Service division. “By connecting robots to the metaverse, we will be able to move freely between both the real world and virtual reality. Going one step further from the immersive ‘be there’ proxy experience that the metaverse provides, robots will become an extension of our own physical senses, allowing us to reshape and enrich our daily lives with Metamobility.”

Thoughts on this brave, new world? You can also check out some snippets from Hyundai’s CES 2022 presentation below:

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PHOTO: Hyundai
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