Must-Watch Robot Videos of the Month

The most striking, stunning, strange robot videos of January 2011

2 min read

Robotics is off to a good start this year. In January, there was CES, with lots of cool new robot products and demos, and we've also seen plenty of robot hacks using Microsoft's Kinect 3D sensor, which is creating quite a stir. But there was much more, of course, so it's time to review the most striking, stunning, and strange robot videos of January.

No. 10 This mind-bending action sequence from the Indian robot movie Enthiran is a must-watch. Insane, awesome, ridiculous? You be the judge.

No. 9 Students at the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering near Boston, Mass., know how to build some cool stuff. Their latest creation is delicious. 

No. 8 DIY enthusiast Jose Julio's ArduSpider is an Arduino-based little critter capable of crawling, hopping, and scaring the bejesus out of the cat.

No. 7 Will the amazing, acrobatic quadrotors developed at University of Pennsylvania's GRASP Lab maybe build your next house?

No. 6 Watch IBM's HAL 9000 Watson, a Jeopardy-playing artificial intelligence system, destroying the human contestants in this practice match.

No. 5 Born at the University of Pennsylvania's Kod*lab, X-RHex is the latest member of the RHex family of robots. And like it siblings, it's one agile bot. 

No. 4 Why use sensor suits or haptic devices when you have Microsoft's Kinect? Check out this body-motion-controlled humanoid from Japan.

No. 3 In what was my favorite CES demo, writer Evan Ackermanstepped into the Cyberdyne HAL robot suit -- and became Iron Man.

No. 2 Hit a robot with a hammer and it will likely shatter into pieces. Nein! This German super-tough robotic hand won't. Did anyone say Terminator?

No. 1Drones shooting fireworks at hydrogen balloons. Robot armageddon? Nope, just some Swedish RC hackers having fun in the woods.

Did we forget any? Let us know.

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The Bionic-Hand Arms Race

The prosthetics industry is too focused on high-tech limbs that are complicated, costly, and often impractical

12 min read
A photograph of a young woman with brown eyes and neck length hair dyed rose gold sits at a white table. In one hand she holds a carbon fiber robotic arm and hand. Her other arm ends near her elbow. Her short sleeve shirt has a pattern on it of illustrated hands.

The author, Britt Young, holding her Ottobock bebionic bionic arm.

Gabriela Hasbun. Makeup: Maria Nguyen for MAC cosmetics; Hair: Joan Laqui for Living Proof

In Jules Verne’s 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon, members of the fictitious Baltimore Gun Club, all disabled Civil War veterans, restlessly search for a new enemy to conquer. They had spent the war innovating new, deadlier weaponry. By the war’s end, with “not quite one arm between four persons, and exactly two legs between six,” these self-taught amputee-weaponsmiths decide to repurpose their skills toward a new projectile: a rocket ship.

The story of the Baltimore Gun Club propelling themselves to the moon is about the extraordinary masculine power of the veteran, who doesn’t simply “overcome” his disability; he derives power and ambition from it. Their “crutches, wooden legs, artificial arms, steel hooks, caoutchouc [rubber] jaws, silver craniums [and] platinum noses” don’t play leading roles in their personalities—they are merely tools on their bodies. These piecemeal men are unlikely crusaders of invention with an even more unlikely mission. And yet who better to design the next great leap in technology than men remade by technology themselves?

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