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Self-Burying Robot Could Be Hiding in Your Backyard Right Now

With four giant drills, this robot can completely vanish into the ground

1 min read
Self-Burying Robot Could Be Hiding in Your Backyard Right Now

Bio-inspired robotics has been all over the place. We've got robots that walk, run, climb, fly, crawl, and swim. We've been kind of missing out on a big domain, though, and that's animals that dig. You know, like moles. Unlike just about any other sort of robot (or animal), you could have a whole family of moles chillin' within just a few feet of you (assuming you're close to the ground, of course) and you'd probably have no idea. And that's appealing for certain robotic applications:

"One use case is for this robot to drive or be air-dropped to a location close to a target, bury itself to be hidden, perform video surveillance, and send that video back to an operator."

Yeah, that's pretty sweet.

Obviously, this is just the very first crack at a self-burying robot, and there's still a lot of experimentation and optimization to be done. The researchers want to make a mathematical model and integrate some sensors and something about feedback control, but here's my advice: scrap all that, and just bolt some bigass motors on there, add some diamond-tipped drill bits, and send this baby straight to the center of the Earth.

"Design Of A Bimodal Self-Burying Robot," by Carl Darukhanavala, Andrew Lycas, Arpit Mittal, and Ashwinram Suresh from Carnegie Mellon University Robotics Institute,, was presented at ICRA 2013 in Germany last month.

Design of a Bimodal Self-Burying Robot ]

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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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