DARPA Arm Robot at ICRA 2012

If you couldn't make it to ICRA this year, don't worry: We'll bring ICRA to you. The 2012 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation attracted more than 1,700 people to the River Centre convention center in St. Paul, Minn., last week. We've been keeping you informedaboutthecoolest (andtheweirdest) projects presented at the conference, and we still have many more stories to come. But today we want to take you to ICRA's show floor, where over two dozen exhibitors demoed their robotic creations. Check out our video montage after the break. 

The robots at the exhibit hall included the DARPA ARM (the robot pictured above), NASA's Robonaut2, Willow Garage's PR2, Intuitive Surgical's Da Vinci, and the Scout, from ReconRobotics, which is based in Edina, Minn., and brought a makeshift Afghanistan village to the show floor. Though we've seen all of these bots before, we've learned some new things about each of them. Watch:

Photo: Evan Ackerman. Video: Erico Guizzo & Evan Ackerman/IEEE Spectrum; special thanks to Bruno Palazzo for the soundtrack.

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
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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
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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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