Empathetic Avatar/Surrogate Self


Session Title:

  • Short Paper Presentations

Presentation Title:

  • Empathetic Avatar/Surrogate Self



  • The Cyborg Surrogate Self extends the literary/artistic notion of emotional communication into the realm of telepresence through the creation of the empathic avatar to act as a first person emotional sensor/effector. The objective of telepresence is to experience a remote location without being there, often through the use of telerobotics and communications technologies. Though suitable for remote labour, inspection and exploration, such remote experiences often lack sensory input and emotional content to make them believable as “real” experience. To provide adequate sensory input is primarily a technical challenge, however, to provide emotional content requires the projection of the feelings of the observer to connect with objects and beings at the remote site. This emotional connection may then augment sensory input provided by purely technical means.

    This relationship has precedents in history: 1) The everyman character in fiction, allowing the audience to project themselves into a story by visualizing themselves in everyman’s situation. 2) Astronauts in space. There are few scientific reasons to send humans to the moon, but many cultural ones. When Neil Armstrong uttered the famous words “one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind”, the astronaut represented all of humanity. An experience of remote emotional connection requires an avatar through which a remote user may project and receive emotional content from the remote site. This avatar must afford control to the remote user, yet personify the user in order to convey feelings of empathy. Ideally this empathetic avatar would be part human, to convey emotion, and part machine, to respond to user control. This mechanically augmented human is the Cyborg Surrogate Self.