The December 2022 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

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Robot Puts Box On Head

iCub explores head-box interactions

1 min read
Robot Puts Box On Head

Robots have a tendency to move rather a lot like, um, robots. How dare they. The smooth and natural motions that we humans are so proud of comes from a combination of many different motions all at once: if you pick something up, you're generally not just using your arm like a robot does, but rather, subtly moving your arms, wrists, hands, torso, and even your head. With a new movement algorithm, iCub is learning to move in a much more human-like manner, even with complex motions.

Yes, at least, iCub has learned how to put things on its head. Brilliant.

You may have noticed that the beginning of the video that it was the recipient of the AAAI 2013 Shakey Award for Best Student Video. What's a Shakey? Why, I'm glad you asked! Meet Shakey, who was pioneering task-planning and route-finding at the Stanford Research Institute back in the 1960s:

Shakey is now retired, but you can find him chillin' at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif.

[ IM CLEVER ]

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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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