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Greetings, Earthlings!

Technology promises to bring the color of cinema to home TV sets

1 min read

Visitors to the Forbidden Planet of the 1956 movie of the same name were met by the metallic marvel in the back. Visitors to the Robot Hut in Elk, Wash., are greeted by the man in the middle. The working replica of Robby the Robot [rear] is one of 2753 toy robots and movie replicas in the collection of John Rigg, a retired electrical engineer and robot enthusiast. As proprietor of the Robot Hut (, Rigg has been collecting, repairing, and building toy robots since 1980, and he is far from finished. Right now he's halfway through a two-year project to build Johnny Five, a wheeled robot from the Short Circuit movies of the 1980s. "That's the most complicated movie prop ever made," he says. "There are 24 servos just in the head that are under computer control."

Rigg has also constructed a jeep version of Robby the Robot, but it hasn't seen the open road in a while. More than a year ago, Rigg was showing him off on the street outside his ranch when Robby had a fender bender. "When you're sitting [in the jeep] behind him, Robby blocks your view," says Rigg. "I thought I had a clear shot into the yard, but I hit the mailbox."

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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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