We're all familiar with the Triple D's of robotics: Dull, Dirty, and Dangerous. That third D, the dangerous one, is arguably where robots have found their most valuable niche, at least when it comes to protecting humans from things that are, you know, dangerous. Like bombs. And now, fires!

Howe and Howe Technologies have plenty of experience building building unmanned tracked monstrosities, but this little guy, named Thermite, is designed to save you from fires as opposed to beat you into a bloody pulp.

The reason why we need robots like this is because humans, in general, are soft and squishy and don't react well to being close to fires, especially the kind of fires that involve exploding fuel, exploding chemicals, exploding nuclear waste, and other exploding things. Thermite, which can pump up to 600 gallons per minute of whatever firefighting flavor you like, is designed to get way up in there and put fires out without any concern for its own personal safety, likely since it's not a person. It is driven around by a person, though, meaning that it's more of a tool for firefighters than a replacement for them.

A shiny new Thermite will run you just under $100,000. This seems kinda spendy, but you could buy eight Thermites for the cost of just one shiny new firetruck, which I guess makes it a pretty good deal.

[ Howe and Howe ] via [ Danger Room ]

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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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