The December 2022 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

Close bar

Stanford Robot Block Party Has PR2s, SPHERES, More (Photos)

Couldn't make it to your local Robot Block Party? Fear not, we have a gallery for you from this week's event at Stanford

2 min read
Stanford Robot Block Party Has PR2s, SPHERES, More (Photos)

If you couldn't make it to the Robot Block Party at Stanford on Wednesday, you should probably take a minute and seriously re-examine your life goals. And after you've done that, head on past the break to check out our gallery of pictures from the event, which ought to give you a fairly good idea of all the robot fun that you missed out on.

NASA Ames is more or less next door to Stanford, so there were no excuses for them to not show up with a spacey robot or two, like SPHERES, which was utterly helpless in the crushing gravity of Earth.

 

This is TenseBot, a robotic recreation of a six DOF flight simulator. It moves around using 12 wire tendons controlled by a bunch of servos, and eventually, NASA is building a new version of TenseBot with multiple segments that will be "capable of snake-like crawling motion." Cool!

 

Alan, the Bosch PR2, kept itself busy by picking stuff up off of a table and putting it into a box, where it was immediately snatched up by greedy little children. To choose their prize, the aforementioned little children got to see Alan's view via a computer screen, and Alan would autonomously grasp any object that they chose. Most of the time, anyway.

 

Alan in a rare moment of not terrifying anyone.

 

 

SRI brought several toys with them, along with an operational (and scarier looking) version of their Taurus robot that we got our first look at last year.

 

To control Taurus, users get dual haptic controls and a 3D vision system and a big helping of feeling like they're doing something awesome.

 

One of SRI's electrostatic wall-climbing robots was just chilling out behind the SRI table, waiting to be noticed and pointedly not falling down.

 

Seeing as the block party was held at the Volkswagen Automotive Innovation Lab at Stanford, we had no trouble spotting Shelley relaxing in a bay, sporting a new paint job.

 

Romotive's Romo smartphone robots were out in force, impressing robot novices and experts alike with their easy to use and intuitive design. Shipping this month, you can get your own for $150.

 

Willow Garage brought along another PR2, which kids were allowed to program using this sweet little control panel. With buttons, knobs, and sliders, anyone could queue up a series of movements in simulation, and then execute those movements on a real PR2:

 

The PR2, while mostly amicable to the arrangement, did find itself in what looked like some rather uncomfortable positions.

 

This Kuka arm with a super fancy camera on the end belongs to a San Francisco company called Autofuss, which takes laid-off industrial robots and gives them new jobs in the film industry.

 

And of course, no robot event would be complete without a posse of Keepons. In hats.

[ National Robotics Week ]

Eternal thanks to Andra Keay and Saurabh Palan for organizing the event!

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
Horizontal
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
DarkGray

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?

Keep Reading ↓Show less