07 September 2018 News

ANA/JAXA plan to revolutionise space with real-world Avatars

Diagram outlining the AVATAR X phases. Image: ANA HOLDINGS
Diagram outlining the AVATAR X phases. Image: ANA HOLDINGS

The ten foot tall, blue-skinned Avatars in the film of the same name might be a thing of science fiction, but a collaboration between ANA HOLDINGS and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) are bringing the idea into science fact as they intend to use real-world Avatars to revolutionise space exploration in a multi-phase program known as “AVATAR X”.

In the James Cameron film, the Avatars were copies of the beings they hoped to win over - the Na’vi; long-limbed beings with bioluminescent markings and large eyes with golden irises. ANA (All Nippon Airways) and JAXA on the other hand are settling for something a little less exotic, as it seems their inspiration might stem from the popular Japanese comic series “Space Brothers.” However the principle behind the Avatar is similar.

A real-world Avatar is essentially a robot controlled by a human that will enable a person to see, hear, feel and interact freely in a remote environment in real-time. Each Avatar will be operated by a pilot and the two will be in complete synchronisation.

And, instead of trying to placate the local inhabitants of a mineral-rich moon in order to mine their Unobtanium, “AVATAR X” say its creators, will be used for remote construction in space, including the lunar surface and Mars, the operation and maintenance of space stations and facilities from Earth along with space-based entertainment and travel for the general public.

ATAVAR X is the visionary offspring from ANA’s AVATAR Vision and JAXA’s new research and development program, J-SPARC (JAXA Space Innovation through Partnership and Co-creation). Together, with a growing list of public and private partners, this bold endeavour anticipates a three phase program to reach Avatar testing in low Earth Orbit. The next step, phase four, which has yet to be given any timescales would see Avatar testing on the lunar surface, before the program is rolled out to Mars, and eventually deep space.

Testing of the Avatars on Earth will be conducted at the AVATAR X Lab@OITA, the world’s first dedicated space Avatar test field which will be located in the southern Japanese prefecture of Oita. Its vision, says the program's website is ‘to become the closest test field to space and a global hub for the space Avatar movement.’

The superb-looking, futuristic lab design made up of three symbolic structures certainly looks the part and has been envisioned by CLOUDS Architecture Office (CLOUDS AO) in New York; a company that was awarded first place in NASA’s Centennial Challenge Mars Habitat Competition. Aside from hosting research facilities “for the world to utilise and enjoy,” co-working spaces and a visitor centre are also planned.

AVATAR X will launch with the establishment of the AVATAR X Consortium and working group sessions will commence in October 2018 to propose and discuss the feasibility of new business concepts. “ANA is driven by a bold and inspiring vision of the future of flight and this boldness doesn’t stop on our planet,” said Shinya Katanozaka, President and CEO of ANA HD. “Through innovative partnerships, like AVATAR X, we are excited about the possibilities of what we can accomplish and where we can go when the private and public sectors join forces.”

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