Robot Penguins Spy on Real Penguins

To get close-up images of penguins in their natural habitats, the BBC used robotic penguin cams

1 min read
Robot Penguins Spy on Real Penguins

Scientists and filmmakers love to deploy robots in disguise to spy on real animals. They've sent drones to film herds of elephants and zebras in Africaarmored mobile robots to photograph Kenyan lions, and animatronic apes to get close-up footage of bonobos. Now the BBC has sent 50 special cameras, including robot penguins that can walk and swim, to get inside penguin colonies and capture never-seen footage of the adorable flat-footed, tuxedo-clad birds in their natural habitats.

For their documentary "Penguins: Spy in the Huddle," the BBC hired John Downer Productions to build a variety of special penguin-cams to film three different species. These spycams were not just the typical remote-controlled cameras hidden in a fancy case. One of them, the RockhopperCam, is a walking penguin bot with 20 degrees of freedom, equipped with gyroscopes, accelerometers, and high-def cameras. According to the producers, it can walk over different terrain, stand up if it falls over, and its computer is preprogrammed with 75 different "penguin motions." Other spycams included the EmperorCam, ChickCam, SnowCam, EggCam, Underwater PenguimCam, and the SnowballCam. From the trailer below, it looks like penguins are ready to welcome their robot overlords.

Image: John Downer Productions

Via [ CNET ] and [ BBC ]

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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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