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Aldebaran's New Nao Robot Demo

The little French humanoid has a new body and new tricks

2 min read
Aldebaran's New Nao Robot Demo

aldebaran robotics nao humanoid robot

At the IEEE Humanoids conference early this month, I met the new Nao.

The latest version of the popular humanoid robot, created by Paris-based Aldebaran Robotics, has a more robust body, longer arms, a more advanced motion engine, and a new head with improved temperature control, Wi-Fi communications, and audio input and output.

In terms of software, Aldebaran improved whole body motion controls, voice recognition, sound localization, and face and image recognition (Nao can learn to identify objects like photographs and book covers). And the robot has now a "fall manager," which detects a fall is going to happen and positions the arms and legs in a more protective posture.

To see a demo, I met with Aldebaran founder and CEO Bruno Maisonnier, who it turns out is a big geek. He told me that he was a computer enthusiast in the 1980s and ended up working in IT. But as a science fiction fan, he also loved robots and dreamed that one day they'd become part of everyone's lives -- just as computers did. He founded Aldebaran to help transform that dream into reality.

Nao was the first robot the company created. It has rapidly gained popularity as a reliable and flexible robotics research platform. It's used at universities and companies in 30 countries and also in the RoboCup competition. Aldebaran has sold 1,065 Nao units. Each costs approximately 12,000 euros.

Next year, Aldebaran plans to unveil Romeo, an adult-size humanoid designed to help elderly and disabled people with everyday tasks.

Maisonnier loves to show off the Nao. Everywhere he goes he lugs a suitcase with a Nao nestled in a custom foam insert. As you can tell from the video, the relationship between creator and creature is sometimes contentious. But in the end love prevails. Watch:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/v/qsRsrMQy64k?fs=1&hl=en_US&hd=1 expand=1]

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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
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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
DarkGray

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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