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ECCE Anthropomimetic Robot Copies Inner Structures of Human Body

This humanoid copies not only the overall form of the human body but also its inner structures and mechanisms. Cool or creepy?

1 min read

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A consortium of European robotics labs is developing a humanoid robot by copying not only the overall form of the human body but also its inner structures: bones, joints, muscles, and tendons. The goal of the ECCEROBOT project is to create an anthropomimetic robot whose body moves and interacts with the physical world in the same way our flesh bodies do. The researchers used thermoplastic polymer, elastic cords, and other soft, flexible materials to build the torso, arms, and hands.

One potential advantage, according to the researchers: shake hands with ECCE and it won't crush your bones.

The result is fascinating, if a bit creepy. The robot looks eerily organic, with parts that look like bone and muscle. The researchers say that humanoids built with metal parts and electric motors and actuators have limitations in the kinds of interactions they can have with humans and the environment. Indeed, they say, these limitations may affect their ability to perceive and "internalize" the world around them.

The big challenge now is devising methods for controlling such flexible (the technical term is compliant) robots. The researchers say there's a lot of work to do in terms of understanding intrinsic movement patterns and being able to model and control these movements. Once they make progress in that direction, their ultimate goal is to use the robot's human-like characteristics to explore human-like cognitive features.

The consortium, led by the University of Sussex (UK), includes Technische Universität München (Germany), Universität Zürich (Switzerland), Elektrotehnicki Fakultet Universitet u Beogradu (Serbia), and the Robot Studio (France).

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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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