The Steampunk Contraptors

Hardware hackers are creating fantastical machines from a Victorian age that never was

5 min read
Photo of Sean Slattery

Top-Hatted Tinkerer: Sean Slattery, whose steampunk persona is that of a 19th-century inventor named Jake von Slatt, holds one of his creations, a telegraph sounder that clacks out text feeds from the web.

Nathan Perkel

Sean Slattery puts on his goggles and starts up the engine of his Frankenstein’s monster of a car, its fiberglass body imitating that of a 1929 Mercedes SSK, its chassis taken from a 1972 Volkswagen Beetle. He bought it on eBay for US $1500, and after major repairs he is now ready to add his own hack. He plans to paint the machine black with gold filigree, mount brass headlights and a slanted grille, and install a compact boiler to drive the vehicle with the fiery might of steam. Call it the Steampunk Car.

Steampunk is a burgeoning subculture that draws on the elaborate aesthetics and romantic worldview of 19th-century England to envision how things might have looked had a few key technologies been developed further. It conjures a gaslit cityscape filled with steam-powered robots, mechanical computers, ray-gun-toting aeronauts, and monocled mad scientists.

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Video Friday: Turkey Sandwich

Your weekly selection of awesome robot videos

4 min read
A teleoperated humanoid robot torso stands in a kitchen assembling a turkey sandwich from ingredients on a tray

Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your friends at IEEE Spectrum robotics. We also post a weekly calendar of upcoming robotics events for the next few months. Please send us your events for inclusion.

CoRL 2022: 14–18 December 2022, AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND

Enjoy today's videos!

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New AI Speeds Computer Graphics by Up to 5x

Neural rendering harnesses machine learning to paint pixels

5 min read
Four examples of Nvidia's Instant NeRF 2D-to-3D machine learning model placed side-by-side.

Nvidia Instant NeRF uses neural rendering to generate 3D visuals from 2D images.


On 20 September, Nvidia’s Vice President of Applied Deep Learning, Bryan Cantanzaro, went to Twitter with a bold claim: In certain GPU-heavy games, like the classic first-person platformer Portal, seven out of eight pixels on the screen are generated by a new machine-learning algorithm. That’s enough, he said, to accelerate rendering by up to 5x.

This impressive feat is currently limited to a few dozen 3D games, but it’s a hint at the gains neural rendering will soon deliver. The technique will unlock new potential in everyday consumer electronics.

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Get the Rohde & Schwarz EMI White Paper

Learn how to measure and reduce common mode electromagnetic interference (EMI) in electric drive installations

1 min read
Rohde & Schwarz

Nowadays, electric machines are often driven by power electronic converters. Even though the use of converters brings with it a variety of advantages, common mode (CM) signals are a frequent problem in many installations. Common mode voltages induced by the converter drive common mode currents damage the motor bearings over time and significantly reduce the lifetime of the drive.

Download this free whitepaper now!

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