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Technology & Innovation

Here Comes the Avatar Economy

Advanced robotics could allow virtually any profession to form part of the globalized economy. By adopting avatars, workers could travel to any part of the world, all from their living room.

What’s the Latest Development?

Robotics companies like VGo, InTouch Health and iRobot may help shape tomorrow’s economy by fundamentally changing the way we think of labor, namely by allowing people to adopt avatars so they can work remotely no matter what their profession is. “InTouch Health’s RP-7, for example, was designed to let doctors remotely diagnose stroke patients, since smaller hospitals often can’t afford a neurologist on staff.” Surprisingly, the greatest limit on avatar technology may not be the robotic hardware, but rather the speed of Internet connections as well as the latency involved in long-distance communication.

What’s the Big Idea?

While current avatar technology needs improvement (some call even the best robots ‘Skype on wheels’), the new devices promise a more complete globalization of labor, even in service industries which have so far resisted exportation. “Telepresence means that in theory, ten, a hundred, or a thousand times as many workers could compete (virtually) for the same work. No matter how bad things get in Madrid or Houston, an avatar worker somewhere else could sell his or her labor for less. The same outsourcing logic applies to many high-wage jobs that rely on physical presence and motor skills, including the work done by cardiologists and machinists.”

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