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Happy New Year!

Happy 2013 from IEEE Spectrum Automaton, with a look back at 2012 and forward at the year ahead

3 min read
Happy New Year!

Dear robots and the humans who love them,

Welcome to 2013. This is the year when everything is going to happen. We can confidently predict that just about every single day (weekday, at least), we'll have something new and amazing and robotic-y to share with you, because that's what we're here for. And we love doing it.

Oh, and we probably don't say this often enough, but thanks for reading. We're not here researching and writing articles every day for us, we're doing it for you. Whenever we meet one of you guys or gals in person, or get a nice email or a positive comment or anything like that, it makes us want to work even harder to bring you the best robotics news we possibly can. 2012 was a great year, and 2013 is going to be even better. So on behalf of Erico and myself and the rest of the contributors to IEEE Spectrum Automaton, thanks again, and keep in touch.

2012 was a huge year for robotics, in a lot of different ways. Just on the off chance that you've forgotten, here are some of our biggest stories from 2012.


Rodney Brooks introduced us to Baxter, and we wrote an awesome article about it for IEEE Spectrum magazine.


We brought you live updates on the Mars Curiosity landing, direct from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.


DARPA announced the Humanoid Robotics Challenge.


iRobot showed us all of the awesome stuff that they keep at their headquarters in Boston.


We published the first official translation of the original Uncanny Valley essay by Masahiro Mori.


And of course, all of the latest research news from ICRA in Minnesota and IROS in Portugal.



So, what are we looking forward to in 2013? Here are some highlights:

  • May: ICRA in Karlsruhe, Germany It's Europe's turn to host ICRA, and we'll be heading to Germany to bring it to you. The especially exciting bit about having ICRA in Germany is that we're hoping to be able to arrange some visits to some of the European robotics labs that we write about all the time but have never been to.
  • November: IROS in Tokyo, Japan The other big IEEE conference is being held in Tokyo this year. And the especially exciting bit about having IROS in Tokyo is that we're hoping to be able to arrange some visits to some of the Japanese robotics labs that we write about all the time but have never been to. Yes, whether it's Europe or Japan, traveling around lets us check out lots of new stuff.
  • November: IREX in Tokyo, Japan Right after IROS is IREX, the International Robot Exhibition. It's only held once every two years, so we're getting very lucky that it's syncing up so well with IROS. There's a picture of a robot gorilla on the website, so that's plenty to get excited about.
  • December: DARPA Robotics Challenge We don't know exactly when or where this is yet, but Phase 1 of the DRC ends in December of next year, so it ought to be before then. A whole bunch of big humanoid robots competing to solve disaster scenarios? Yeah, that'll be awesome.

On top of all that, I can think of at least two other surprises we've got in store for you in the very near future, plus we're looking to start putting together more frequent guests posts from robotics experts. 

Once again, thanks for reading and participating and being the most important part of what we do. Here's to you, and us, and a fantastic 2013. Cheers! :)

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

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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