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Pleo, the Poop-Free Pet

Can Ugobe's robotic dinosaur replace the family cat?

2 min read

When Pleo the robotic ­dinosaur moved in to my house for two weeks in January, my kids--ages 9, 12, and 16—were thrilled. They quickly decided that Pleo was a girl; I’ll refer to her as one from now on.

The brainchild of Ugobe, a robotics ­company in Emeryville, Calif., Pleo looks and acts the way you’d expect a baby Camarasaurus to, thanks to ­sophisticated ­robotics. She has two 32-bit and four 8â''bit ­microprocessors, ­fourteen motors, a ­camera, two ­microphones, eight ­sensors under her ­rubberized skin, a tilt ­sensor, an infrared mouth sensor, fourteen force-­feedback sensors, and four switches in her feet. [See our video at http://­spectrum.ieee.org/video?id=100.]

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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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