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CMU Snake Robots Can Now Strangle Things on Contact

Watch out, necks: snake robots are flying at you

1 min read
CMU Snake Robots Can Now Strangle Things on Contact

See this little guy smirking at you? Want to know how he got up there? A word of advice: as of right now, do not stand anywhere near a snake robot while looking like a tree, because these things will now fly right at you and go for your throat.

As far as the robot is concerned, I imagine that your neck probably makes for a perfectly acceptable vantage point from which to survey an area, at least until you pass out and fall over. We've already seen these robots climb up people, but the new trick that they've learned now is to reflexively grab on to stuff after being thrown at it:

Using the accelerometers inside each module of the snake robot we are able to detect when the robot hits a pole or branch after being thrown and have the robot automatically perch on contact.

Pole or branch or your neck, of course.

This work was supported by the Army Research Lab, which can only mean one thing: snake robots are being weaponized. No doubt there have been super secret tests with catapults full of snakebots being hurled at neck level at hordes of hapless grad students. Obviously there is only one prudent course of action: make reinforced spiked collars mandatory for all citizens. You know, just in case these flying snake robots go rogue.

Incidentally, robotic snakes totally stole the fly n' grab trick from real snakes, some of whom launch themselves from trees and glide to other trees, grabbing on with their bodies on impact. You can see video of that here.

[ CMU Biorobotics ]

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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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