Clothbot Has No Trouble Navigating Your Pants

No clothing is safe from this tenacious little bot

2 min read
Clothbot Has No Trouble Navigating Your Pants

Last year, we met CLASH, arguably the first purpose-built cloth climbing robot ever constructed. Clearly, just having one robot that can conquer clothing is not nearly enough, and a team of roboticists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences has decided that we need a little robot specifically designed to climb up wrinkles.

Unlike CLASH, which climbs with little spiny legs, Clothbot uses a gripping mechanism that can create a wrinkle in a piece of cloth with a pair of opposed gripper wheels and then drive straight up it. Clothbot only weighs about 140 grams, and it also includes an omni-directional tail that adjusts the bot’s center of gravity and helps it to change direction. The upside over a robot like CLASH is that Clothbot doesn’t leave little claw-holes all over your stuff, but instead just a slight fold that merely makes you appear unkempt.

So what exactly does Clothbot do when it gets to the top of your pants or your jacket or your shirt or whatever? We have no idea, but the authors mention that it could be used as “a tiny pet climbing on human bodies” or even “a movable phone on our shoulder which frees human hands.” One other intriguing possibility (and this is totally from the authors, not us) is “body inspection.” Body inspection. Yeah, uh, you’ll just have to use your imagination on that one.

System and Design of Clothbot: a Robot for Flexible Clothes Climbing, by Yuanyuan Liu, Xinyu Wu, Huihuan Qian, Duan Zheng, Jianquan Sun and Yangsheng Xu from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Chinese University of Hong Kong, was presented Tuesday at 2012 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, in St. Paul, Minn.

[ Chinese Academy of Science ]

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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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