Do you know what your garden is missing right now? Of course you do, because whenever this blog asks you what X is missing right now, the correct answer is always always always ROBOTS. And your garden is absolutely missing robots. Specifically, the sort with lots of legs and big lights on their heads.

These Toro-bots are built on top of PhantomX quadrupeds, and each has been programmed with its own unique behavior. Infrared rangefinders allow the robots to react to things like people walking past them, and they're also equipped with infrared beacons that allow them to be tracked individually by an IR camera and (eventually) given some level of centralized autonomous control.

The Toro-bots are about more than just having lamps that can walk around (as cool as that is). They're part of a grand vision of a garden that can aesthetically rework itself:

A Japanese garden is designed to recreate the eyes and foster contemplation and meditation. Inspired by nature, it is, however, a work of art: a production of the human mind. Human beings create that order, and then retreat to contemplate it, intervening from time to time to tweak details and maintain the order. We propose here a garden that takes care of itself, that somehow understands and re-interprets the rules of harmony and equilibrium, and reconfigures itself depending on the season, the presence or absence of a human observersthat develops structure in a generative way, creating a dynamic conversation between the elements in the garden. 

I like the idea that a garden full of robots might also be able to carry out practical tasks, like having walking lamps that follow you around at night. Maybe you can outfit them with cameras or other sensors to monitor plant health, and give them remote control over your sprinkler system. They could live (and charge) indoors, and come and go as they please through the robot equivalent of a doggy door. Adorable!

To get started on a robot like this of your own, all it takes is a Japanese lamp plus a PhantomX quadruped kit, which'll set you back just under $1k.

[ Alvaro Cassinelli ] via [ Trossen ]

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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

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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
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?

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