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All the Latest, Most Exciting Robotics Research From ICRA 2017

We're at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation 2017 in Singapore

1 min read
ICRA robotics conference in Singapore
Photo: Evan Ackerman/IEEE Spectrum

Every six months, an enormous posse of top robotics researchers from around the world converge on some moderately exotic location to impress each other with their latest research. Right now, we’re at the 2017 edition of the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), which is taking place as you read this in Singapore. As always, we’re going to do our best to read every single paper and attend every single technical session, even though there are 11 tracks all happening at the same time along with workshops, forums, and an expo.

You can expect to see posts this week about what’s most novel and interesting from the conference, but (again, as always) there’s way too much cool stuff to cram into just one week: We’ll continue to post ICRA-related content for the next few weeks, even as we get back to our regular robotics news.

Turtlebot 3 Burger mobile robot is powered by ROS, the Robot Operating SystemROBOTIS, Intel, and OSRF will demonstrate the TurtleBot 3 (Burger model pictured) at ICRA 2017 and host a launch party with talks, Q&A, and prizes.Image: ROBOTIS

And if you’re at ICRA, come say hi! I’ll be the harassed-looking dude with a big camera frantically running between sessions. Also, on Tuesday, IEEE is co-hosting the official TurtleBot 3 launch party with Intel and ROBOTIS. It’s across the bay at Baliza nightclub, and you should come: We’ll be talking on stage with TurtleBot celebrities, and there will be prizes and food (register soon, there’s a limited number of tickets!). More info here.

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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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