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Monday Oct 03, 2022

The Speed of Light is Faster than the Speed of Light: How to Overcome the Physical Limitations of Telecommunications Today

The Internet of Skills will digitalize and make human skills more accessible to all. This future internet will let you use robot technology and haptic feedback in order to share expertise instantly, no matter where you are located or what the problem is.

Imagine a highly skilled surgeon performing tele-surgery on an individual patient from thousands of miles away. Despite the fact that the robot is operating the scalpel, it seems like the surgeon is actually doing the operation.

Physically impossible

However, this vision is not possible today. It is impossible to recreate the sensation of touch using forces, vibrations or movements on the user and trick the skin and body into believing that the virtual world is real. This requires a network with submillisecond latency. Ultra-low latency networks and high bandwidth networks, where operation command and haptic response occur end to end with a maximum delay time of one-thousandths of a second.

Even in ideal conditions, this extremely low latency limits communication distance to 150km. Light cannot travel further if information must move between the human operator (or remote slave robot) within the latency bound.

The Internet can enable real-time transmissions of haptic sensations, which could allow for various physical operations that are possible without the need to be physically present. This will open the door to the Internet of Skills, which will allow people to share and disseminate skills and expertise across all demographics, including gender, age, and other differences. This will reduce travel time and CO2 emissions. At this point, however, immersion at the required level is not possible over long distances. “New solutions are required to address these challenges,” said Associate Professor Qi Zhang, from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering of Aarhus University.

Digital twin

Qi Zhang heads a new research-development project called the eTouch. It aims to overcome today’s telecommunications limitations. It is designed to provide a quick response regardless of distance so that users can perceive haptic feedback without any delay.

The team will use Model-Mediated Teleoperation to solve the problem. A virtual model (a digit pair) will accurately describe remote environments and generate haptic feedback locally instead of sending it over long distances.

It is difficult to build a model and update it in real time with current data-processing paradigm. Edge Computing will be used by the team.


This team will include experts from world-class universities such as Aarhus University, the Technical University of Munich, Dresden (TUD), and Aarhus University in the areas of edge computing, machine learning, and tele-robot technology.

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