The All-In-One Guitar Playing Robot and Game

Robots that can play games like Guitar Hero have been around for several years. But Intel and National Instruments have created a new demo that can run everything

1 min read
Screenshot of demo
Photo: IEEE

With all the excitement surrounding the release of Guitar Hero 5 and The Beatles: Rock Band, I decided now was a good time to post a video I shot last month at National Instruments Week. In the past we’ve covered the way Guitar Hero could help amputees train brain-computer interfaces and how to turn the controllers into real musical instruments. It’s been over a year since we posted about Slashbot, a robot that could play the game.

Today’s video features another guitar-playing robot. But this one is different: the musical game (in this case, the open-source Frets on Fireclone), the vision acquisition system (that reads the notes off the screen), and the robotic control are all running off a single processor. Check it out:

This demo was a way for Intel and National Instruments to show off their new virtualization tool, which allows engineers to assign a specific task to a particular core. I thought it was a rather impressive way to show off the technology, but I’d be curious to hear your thoughts. Is this virtualization capability worthwhile?

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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
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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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