The December 2022 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

Close bar

Dreamer Sociable Robotic Head

Researchers are teaching this robot head how to be social

1 min read
Dreamer Sociable Robotic Head

dreamer

UT Austin’s HCR Lab just got this robot head, and its primary goal is to “elicit a sense of trust and sociability to an otherwise pure mechatronic device.” This is a moderately refreshing (and on the whole, quite advisable) approach to creating a robot… It’s very easy to focus on functionality without worrying about whether or not people are going to actually want to interact with your robot. Obviously, a lot of thought was put into Dreamer, because it’s securely in that sweet spot of humanish without trying too hard.

One of the things that I think makes this robot appear so natural is that fact that it has fast eyes that lead its head around, just like an animal or human. There’s only a minimal amount of that sluggish, mechanical servo response, and the video even mentions that the eyes are capable of moving even faster, up to “human speed.” Plus, as we’ve mentioned before, having eyelids is a really big deal.

[ HCR Lab ] via [ Engadget ]

The Conversation (0)

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
Horizontal
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
DarkGray

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?

Keep Reading ↓Show less