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iFling: UCSD's Latest Ball-Flinging Robot Is 100% More Flingy

Watch this funky little balancing robot pick up ping pong balls and throw them

1 min read
iFling: UCSD's Latest Ball-Flinging Robot Is 100% More Flingy

Generally, I approach robots (and everything else) with gratuitous "i"s appended to their names with no small amount of skepticism, but UCSD's robotics lab has somehow managed to create a whole lineage of "i" robots that can do some totally unique stuff. We've written about them before, but this latest version of iFling has some substantial quality of life improvements when it comes to doing what it does best: picking up ping-pong balls and chucking them at things:

The two-wheeled balancing design clearly gives the robot more mobility than it knows what to do with, and the integrated ball pickup system is brilliant. I love the idea of teaching a bunch of these little guys to autonomously play catch, but better yet would be some sort of entirely new robot-on-robot team sport. It's also worth noting that the website mentions how iFling is "particularly engaging as a toy," which makes me wonder whether we might be treated to a kit (or even a full-fledged commercial product) at some point in the future.

[ UCSD Robotics ]

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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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