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Canadians Teach Darwin-OP Robot to Ice Skate, Play Hockey

Jennifer could be the first autonomous humanoid robot ice hockey player in the world

1 min read
Canadians Teach Darwin-OP Robot to Ice Skate, Play Hockey

When a Canadian gets their frigid little hands on a robot, you can be sure that one of two things will happen: either they'll send it into space, or they'll teach it to play hockey.

Since Darwin-OP (last time I checked) was not certified against either the harsh environment of outer space or guaranteed not to go crazy and kill a bunch of astronauts, it looks like this particular robot (who lives up at the Autonomous Agents Laboratory of the University of Manitoba) will just have to learn how to play hockey instead. Her name is Jennifer, and she might actually be the first autonomous humanoid robot ice hockey player in the world:

Jennifer's just a beginner, and she's got a ways to go before she'll be able to convince anyone that hockey is a real sport. Getting a robot to skate isn't easy, but it's certainly possible, and a pair of customized aluminum roboskates (currently on order) should help. The other tricky bit is the aiming and shooting: Darwin already comes with ball tracking and the ability to aim kicks at a goal, but using a hockey stick to aim a puck at a goal sideways is an entirely different skill.

Aside from being what looks like a lot of fun, this project is a submission to the Darwin-OP Humanoid Application Challenge, to take place at the 2012 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), and we'll see all the videos (and learn whether Jennifer takes home the gold) at ICRA in Minnesota this May. 

[ University of Manitoba ] via [ Robots-Dreams ]

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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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