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Meka and UT Austin Developing 'Hyper-Agile' Bipedal Robot

If Meka and UT Austin have their way, Hume could give PETMAN a run for its money

1 min read
Meka and UT Austin Developing 'Hyper-Agile' Bipedal Robot

Meka Robotics and the University of Texas at Austin, have already teamed up on one very cool robot, and they've just announced another: Hume, a "bipedal robot for human-centered hyper-agility." Hyper-agility, you say? Tell us more!

Hume is designed to study "planar rough-terrain locomotion," which means running at relatively high speed over uneven ground, something that humans are good at. And like humans, Hume will rely on minimal perception: when we run, we're not staring at the ground for every step, but rather adapting passively to small terrain variations without having to devote a lot of brain power to not falling on our faces.

To accomplish this, Hume relies on legs powered by compliant, force-controlled series-elastic actuators. The robot isn't running yet (or doing parkour, as the paper mentions it may eventually), but check out these legs:

If Hume looks a little bit like a certain other advanced bipedal humanoid we've met recently, that wasn't lost on the researchers, who mention in their paper that "we are aware of the new PETMAN robot by Boston Dynamics which delivers high mechanical power and speed but its detailed architecture is uncertain to us." A lot of things about PETMAN are uncertain, that's for sure, but it's pretty cool that we're getting to watch the parallel development of Hume at the same time, and we can only hope that we'll get to see the robots compete in a 100-meter dash some day.

[ Paper (PDF) ] 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
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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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