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Germans Developing Robot Ape

This ape-like robot is an interesting mix between quadrupeds and humanoids

2 min read
Germans Developing Robot Ape

Here's why I think building a robot ape is a clever idea: like a real ape, it's sort of a cross between a humanoid and a quadruped, in that it spends most of the time moving around on four limbs. But, it can still stand up on its hind legs and give itself some extra height and a couple of manipulators when it needs to. I'm not sure that this specific capability is what DFKI (the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence) is working on with their "ape-like robotic system," but hey, they've got a fully armed and legged and operational robot ape, so I'm pretty sure that this biquadrupedal manipulation thing is inevitable now.

This robot is part of a project called iStruct, but for the life of me I can't puzzle out what it's actually about. There's a summary that does a remarkable job of not really communicating anything tangible:

Aim of the project iStruct is the development of a robotic system as well as of biologically inspired structural components which, if applied on the robotic system, effectively improve the locomotion and mobility characteristics. In order to achieve this goal, an improved perception of the environment and the own condition is needed. The intelligent structures to be developed contain a variety of functions which cannot only extend the already existing locomotion behaviors of robots, but also permit further relevant applications like the contemporaneous use as carrier and sensor system. This way, different functionalities are united in one construction unit.

If I had to guess, I'd say that the point of this project is to design intelligent structures (like actuated spines) that fuse sensors, actuators, and control systems into structural subunits. The robot itself is a test platform for these intelligent structures. But I could be way off.

The important take-home message, I think, is this: there is now potential for a future that's a combination of a robot apocalypse and Planet of the Apes. Good news for ape-like robots, bad news for humans.

[ DFKI ]

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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
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?

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