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MeBot Brings Intuitive Movement to Telepresence

All that arm-waving that you do when you talk can now be captured and transmitted through a telepresence robot

2 min read
MeBot Brings Intuitive Movement to Telepresence

Most telepresence robots (with a few exceptions) aren’t especially presence-y, in that you can see people, and people can see you, but you’re pretty much just a head on a screen on a robotic stick with wheels. MeBot, a project from the Personal Robotics Group at MIT, adds a little bit of personality to telepresence by providing ways for users to communicate non-verbally, through things like head movement, arm movement, and posture:

The clever bit is that you, as the user, don’t need to tell the robot to do any of the expressive stuff that it does with its screen. It watches what you’re doing with your head, and duplicates those socially expressive movements with the robot. Is it effective? You bet:

We conducted an experiment that evaluated how people perceived a robot-mediated operator differently when they used a static telerobot versus a physically embodied and expressive telerobot. Results showed that people felt more psychologically involved and more engaged in the interaction with their remote partners when they were embodied in a socially expressive way. People also reported much higher levels of cooperation both on their own part and their partners as well as a higher score for enjoyment in the interaction.

Even though it has those little 3 DoF arms, MeBot isn’t designed to do anything in particular with its additional axes of motion. You currently control them sympathetically using a second set of arms, the positions and movements of which are duplicated by the arms on the robot. Conceivably, you could add some grippers to the robot and a more comprehensive control system on the other end, but that would defeat a large part of the purpose (and the beauty) of MeBot: it’s designed to be purely expressive, implying a natural simplicity that requires no extra effort or skill. It just does its thing while you do yours, which is how all the best systems (hardware and software alike) tend to function.

Another vid with a few more details, after the jump.

[ MeBot ] via [ Hizook ]

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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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