Get Ready for National Robotics Week

It's the tenth year of the most popular robotics celebration in the U.S.

2 min read
Misty II, a programmable personal robot platform for developers created by Misty Robotics
Misty II, a programmable robot platform for developers created by Misty Robotics.
Image: National Robotics Week via YouTube

It’s hard to believe that it’s been a decade since the first National Robotics Week. A decade ago I was a fledgling robotics blogger and was absolutely convinced that within the next 10 years, robots would be everywhere. That hasn’t quite happened (yet), but robots certainly are a lot more places and doing a lot more things than they were in 2010, and that’s definitely worth celebrating!

National Robotics Week 2019 officially starts this Saturday, and runs from 6 to 14 April. To get everyone excited, the organizers put together this awesome video featuring a lineup of star roboticists: Ayanna Howard (Georgia Tech), Colin Angle (iRobot), Ian Bernstein (Misty Robotics), Kate Darling (MIT Media Lab), Mark Palatucci (Anki), and Rodney Brooks (MIT).

There are all kinds of ways of getting involved with National Robotics Week, with events taking place nationwide—see everything that’s going on here. And since it’s been 10 years, I’m going to appropriate what I wrote for my first post (on about National Robotics Week back in 2010:

If you decide to go to one of these events because you think robots are awesome, bring along someone you know who doesn’t think that robots are awesome, and show them what they’re missing out on. Robotics has an incredible core of devoted people, but part of our job has to be showing everybody else why, and how, robots are going to be an important part of our lives in the future. Not the forever from now flying car jetpack future, but the next few years future. It’s not something anyone needs to be scared of or intimidated by as long as they understand that robots are here to make our lives better, and hopefully National Robotics Week can help spread the word.

It’s not too late to put on an event yourself; even if it’s nothing fancy, there are plenty of ways in which you (as a robotics expert by virtue of reading our blog every day) can add a little bit of extra robotics to the world. For example, a local science museum or public library might let you hang out with your favorite robot and talk to people who come by. I’ve done this with my TurtleBot, and it’s a lot of fun.

And if you can’t make National Robotics Week work for you this year? Don’t worry about it, just treat the other 51 weeks of the year as your own private National Robotics Week by telling everyone you know how great robots are, and we’ll forgive you.

Robot Trading Cards 2019Robot trading cards created by iRobot, Georgia Tech, and IEEE Spectrum to celebrate National Robotics Week.Image: National Robotics Week

Also, we helped curate 12 new robot trading cards for 2019, and you can download decks from all the way back to 2014 if you want to remember what robots were like half a decade ago.

[ National Robotics Week 2019 ]

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

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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.

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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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