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The Robot Baby Reality Matrix

Some robot babies look real. Some act real. A few do both

1 min read
The Robot Baby Reality Matrix

Advanced robots that look and act like adult humans have been around since the 1970s. But more recently a new breed of humanoids has begun crawling and babbling in the lab: baby and child robots. Researchers say they build mechanical infants not only to learn more about robotics but also to investigate human cognition, language acquisition, and motor development. Some scientists believe that baby robots could even help introduce young people to the wonders of parenthood. To get you acquainted with this bionic bunch, we rated each robot according to its similarity to humans and its technical capabilities.

Click on image for a larger view.

robo_baby

 

Clockwise from top left: Aldebaran Robotics; Thomas Bregardis/AFP/Getty Images; RobotCub; Kokoro; Erico Guizzo; Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images; University of Tsukuba; Tony Gutierrez/AP Photo; Sankei/Getty Images; Georgia Institute of Technology; Yoshikazu Tsuno/AFP/Getty Images; University of Bonn; Erico Guizzo

 

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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
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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