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Slideshow: Born Bionic

These robots are pushing the envelope of humanoid design--they can play the trumpet, unload a dishwasher, and climb stairs

3 min read

This is part of IEEE Spectrum's SPECIAL REPORT: THE SINGULARITY

For more articles, videos, and special features, go to The Singularity Special Report

This is part of IEEE Spectrum's SPECIAL REPORT: THE SINGULARITY

Photo: Anybots

SILICON SERVANT

Anybots, in Mountain View, Calif., is developing tele-operated mechanical servants like Monty, a two-armed wheeled robot equipped with gyroscopes, force sensors, and actuators powered by ultracapacitors. Anybots’ founders see a future in which a low-paid worker might remotely control a robot in your kitchen.

For more articles, videos, and special features, go to The Singularity Special Report

This is part of IEEE Spectrum's SPECIAL REPORT: THE SINGULARITY

Photo: Shigeki Sugano Laboratory/Department of Modern Mechanical Engineering/Waseda University

TOAST MASTER

Twendy-One is a 47-degrees-of-freedom, 1.5-meter tall humanoid developed at Waseda University, in Japan, to help disabled people with household tasks. With a six-axis force sensor in each fingertip, the robot can grasp soft objects like paper cups as well as manipulate small items like a straws or pencils.

For more articles, videos, and special features, go to The Singularity Special Report

This is part of IEEE Spectrum's SPECIAL REPORT: THE SINGULARITY

Photo: Indiana University

WHO’S WHO?

Chinese roboticist Zou Ren Ti, of the Xi’an Chaoren Sculpture Research Institute, sits next to his android twin [right]. With lifelike skin made of silica gel, the robot can move its neck, eyes, and mouth and often confound people when sitting beside its flesh-and-blood counterpart.

For more articles, videos, and special features, go to The Singularity Special Report

This is part of IEEE Spectrum's SPECIAL REPORT: THE SINGULARITY

Photo: Hanson Robotics

GENIUS HEAD

Albert Hubo is 1.4-meter-tall battery-powered walking humanoid with realistic, humanlike facial expressions. The robotic body was developed by researchers at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, and the head is a creation of Hanson Robotics, a Texas company that makes interactive conversational robots.

For more articles, videos, and special features, go to The Singularity Special Report

This is part of IEEE Spectrum's SPECIAL REPORT: THE SINGULARITY

Photo: Gordon Cheng/Jan Moren/National Institute of Information and Communications Technology

NERVES OF STEEL

Developed at the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology in Japan, i-1 is a 50-degrees-of-freedom, freestanding, full-body humanoid. With stereoscopic cameras as eyes and microphones as ears, the robot is helping researchers study how humans interact and communicate with machines.

For more articles, videos, and special features, go to The Singularity Special Report

Photo: Jan Moren

This is part of IEEE Spectrum's SPECIAL REPORT: THE SINGULARITY

Photo: Honda

MECHANICAL MAESTRO

Honda keeps improving its famed Asimo humanoid. The latest version can dance, climb stairs, and has even conducted the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. At the company’s Tokyo headquarters, Honda engineers are currently testing out Asimo’s ability to guide visitors and deliver refreshments.

For more articles, videos, and special features, go to The Singularity Special Report

This is part of IEEE Spectrum's SPECIAL REPORT: THE SINGULARITY

Photo: Toyota

DEXTEROUS DROID

Toyota’s Partner robots include little droids that play the trumpet and the violin. The company’s goal is to demonstrate advanced manipulation capabilities, including the ability to grasp small objects. The robots are still largely tele-operated, but Toyota plans to make them more autonomous and eventually test them in nursing homes and hospitals.

For more articles, videos, and special features, go to The Singularity Special Report

This is part of IEEE Spectrum's SPECIAL REPORT: THE SINGULARITY

Photo: Yves Gellie/Corbis

DOMO ARIGATO

The Actroid DER2 female humanoid was developed by Japanese entertainment firm Kokoro Co. and Osaka University. The lifelike droid, which can talk and gesticulate, is one of several Actroid models that the company offers for rent with various costumes and choreography options.

For more articles, videos, and special features, go to The Singularity Special Report

This is part of IEEE Spectrum's SPECIAL REPORT: THE SINGULARITY

Photo: Tamim Asfour

KITCHEN KINETICS

German researchers at the University of Karlsruhe designed their ARMAR III humanoid to closely mimic the sensory and motor capabilities of humans. The goal is to use the 45 degrees-of-freedom humanoid to study how robots can safely coexist with people and assist them in a wide variety of domestic tasks.

For more articles, videos, and special features, go to The Singularity Special Report

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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
Horizontal
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
DarkGray

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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