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Robot Soccer Players Learning Fancy Human Skills

RoboCup 2011 just kicked off in Istanbul, and the robot soccer players are already demonstrating some slick footwork

1 min read
Robot Soccer Players Learning Fancy Human Skills

In the past, most humanoid robotsoccer competitions have consisted of repeated kicking of the ball towards the goal and (for all practical purposes) not too much else. Ambitious algorithms and programming have fallen victim to sensors and hardware that can’t always keep up, as well as opponents who tend to interfere in carefully planned strategies. However, we’re starting to see some exceptionally clever robot maneuvers leading up to RoboCup 2011 in Istanbul, which had its first round of matches just yesterday.

These two videos come from the Darmstadt Dribblers, whom you may remember as the victors in the KidSize bracket at RoboCup 2010. They show the robots practicing both human-style throw-ins, and a skilled passing game that avoids obstacles, all completely autonomously:

Impressive. Most impressive. Personally, I think we humans are doomed, especially considering that it was two years ago now (i.e. foreverago in robot years) that a team of non-humanoid robots actually managed to score on a team of humans in a friendly game.

[ Darmstadt Dribblers ]

[ RoboCup 2011 ]

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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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