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RoboGames 2011: Humanoids

Humanoid robots run, dance, lift things, and try to kill each other at RoboGames 2011

1 min read
RoboGames 2011: Humanoids

RoboGames had about a dozen humanoid-only events this year, ranging from freestyle dance-offs to weight lifting to Kung-Fu. There was a whole cadre of Aldebaran Robotics' Naos strutting their stuff, as well as a multitude of custom-made robots, many of which were designed from the ground up specifically for competitions like RoboGames.

One of the highlights was Taylor Veltrop demonstrating his hybrid Kinect and Wii control system for humanoids. It's been fascinating to watch robot control systems evolve from Waldo-type master/slave hardware just a few years ago to a full body motion-capture system where someone can just jump in and have a robot (or two) mimic their every move. You'll see that in action in this video, along with footage of several other events and a gigantic just-for-fun humanoid robot rumble:

We're putting together more tasty footage from RoboGames, but if you need your fix in the meantime, Robots Dreams has a bunch of video on their YouTube channel.

[ RoboGames ]

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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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