Disney Builds Wall Climbing Base Jumping Tornado Powered Robot

Paraswift wrangles tornadoes, scales tall buildings, and paraglides to safety

1 min read
Disney Builds Wall Climbing Base Jumping Tornado Powered Robot

Disney Research seems to be bullish on this whole robotics thing, and that partnership with ETH Zurich that we heard about at ICRA looks to be developing nicely. Their latest creation is a robot that can climb up buildings and then leap off, deploying an absolutely adorable little parafoil to come to a safe landing. Watch the video, but be warned: the drama has been cranked up to intense.

Wheee!

The wall climbing talent comes courtesy of a vortex generator (a propeller of sorts), which creates a freakin' tornado inside a cylinder in the body of the robot. The interior of the vortex is a region of low pressure, which allows the bot to stick to vertical surfaces, and since the vortex itself forms an air barrier, there's no need for a seal. This means that the bot doesn't need a smooth surface to climb (although it probably helps).

The robot, called Paraswift, was originally intended to be used for entertainment. And you are entertained, are you not? The team from ETH Zurich, though, sees more possibilities for their bot, like using it to create vertical 3D models of tall buildings. They also want to automate the parachute deployment so that if the robot ever slips and falls, it'll land safely. Sounds like a good idea to me, although they'll have to work on the parafoil steering, lest Paraswift suffer the same fate as iRobot's poor little PackBot Griffin.

[ Disney Research ] via [ TechCrunch ]

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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
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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
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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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