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February 6th, 2007
Just over three years ago, a couple of computer science/engineer types found themselves at a brainstorming session and wound up with the next big idea.
Todd Mowry and Seth Goldstein, both associate professors of computer science at CMU, hit on an idea that could fundamentally change the world.
Mowry imagined a technology that would let people project what he calls a "telepresence" -- a remote, three-dimensional representation of a human being. The representation would not be merely an image, but a physical duplication or model. The technology would, for example, replace telephone and Web conferencing by creating lifelike replications of the conference participants, all in the same room.
"Seth and I came up with the idea for the project," Mowry recalled. "We were at a workshop sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and Computing Research Association, where we were supposed to be brainstorming about big, grand challenge-types of ideas.
"Seth had a proposal for using possibly nanotechnology, but not necessarily that, to build little objects like robots that could form into shapes. We sort of realized the best way to build what I had in mind [with telepresence] was through Seth's idea of having things form into physical shapes -- to have something that is physically there, rather than the illusion."
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