Amazing Nao Hack Offers Full-Body Teleoperated Kitty Grooming

Talyor Veltrop's full-body teleoperation of a Nao is every lonely cat's dream

1 min read
Amazing Nao Hack Offers Full-Body Teleoperated Kitty Grooming

We've been following Taylor Veltrop's Nao teleoperation saga for, uh, well... It feels like it's been forever, but I guess it's only been about a year since Veltrop, a Japan-based roboticist, had a robot doing push-ups for him. But there's more to teleoperation than just virtual exercise: There's also virtual pet pampering, and it involves Nao, a Kinect system, a treadmill, a bunch of cameras, and one exceptionally tolerant cat.

There's a lot going on here. The system consists of a Nao (of course), a Kinect sensor, two Wiimotes, a treadmill, a camera mounted on Nao's head, and a head-mounted immersive display system for the user that also control's Nao's head and neck. So, put all this together, and Veltrop (the user) can walk forward and Nao walks forward. Veltrop can turn, and Nao turns. Veltrop can pick up a brush and start beating on a clearly uncomfortable cat, and, well, yeah, there you go.

I have to say, this is a fairly remarkable feat of robotics that Veltrop's come up with. It's also worth noting just how much of this was accomplished based on off-the-shelf (and relatively inexpensive) sensors combined with some intense cleverness. In just the last few years, the availability of cheap and open source software and hardware has enabled people without giant research budgets to do some amazing things that just haven't been possible before, and with sensors like the Kinect 2 to look forward to, the near future is going to be awfully exciting for robots and humans. And cats.

[ Taylor Veltrop ]

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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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