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Sneak Peek: iRobot's Hall of Awesomeness

We toured iRobot's headquarters last week, and we've got some sweet pics to show you

2 min read
Sneak Peek: iRobot's Hall of Awesomeness

We know, we kind of bailed on you a little bit last week. We're sorry! But, it's only because we've been hard at work doing some old fashioned on-site reportin' on the ground in Boston, where we checked out iRobot, Boston Dynamics, and several robotics labs at MIT. So, look for some great stuff over the next couple weeks, but for now, you'll just have to make due with a few teaser pics from iRobot's Hall of Awesomeness.

We got a personal tour of iRobot's museum from Nancy Dussault Smith, Vice President of Marketing Communications, who has been at iRobot since 2001 and has several patents on the Scooba. She showed us the whole lineup on video (thirty minutes worth!), and you'll have it as soon as we've edited it together, but here's a brief sampling of some of the stuff that we saw:

This is IT, as in, this robot's name is "IT." IT was the first emotionally responsive robot that iRobot ever built, and in 1997, IT became one of the first robots to be featured on the cover of National Geographic.

 

 

R2, designed in 1993, was intended to eventually help move stuff around in nuclear power plants where it would be dangerous for people to go. And it's really, really cute.

 

 

Data Bubbles could be dropped off in swarms in the ocean, where they'd sit on the bottom and passively listen for specific noises (like submarines). If they heard something (like a submarine), they'd pop up to the surface and transmit a signal, allowing groups of them to create a sort of breadcrumb trail to track stealthy vessels (like submarines).

 

 

Ah yes, we all love robot babies. iRobot teamed up with Hasbro to create My Real Baby, and although it wasn't a huge commercial success, it was very sophisticated and embodied a huge amount of interactivity.

 

 

This is a Meep, an early interactive robotic toy that you can interact with by voice, and also put together in swarms and they'll interact with each other.

 

 

Finally, we've got iRobotLE, a wireless telepresence robot that could go up and down stairs. It was totally cool, but when it came out in 2002, nobody really had wireless networks in their homes. Yep, iRobot was just too far ahead of its time back then.

There are lots more robots where these came from (literally), and we'll have the complete tour for you in a week or so.

[ iRobot ]

The Conversation (0)

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
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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