The February 2023 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

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Video Friday: Catapulting Roboplanes, Swimming Roboturtles, and Mini Tofu

Featuring what could possibly be the cutest robot video you've ever seen

3 min read
Video Friday: Catapulting Roboplanes, Swimming Roboturtles, and Mini Tofu

This is what I get for going on vacation: for today's Video Friday, you're in for (let me just count 'em up here) approximately eleventy bajillion robot videos, including what may be one of my new mostest favoritest robot videos EVER

This video is from three years ago, I guess, but WHO CARES. IT'S AWESOME.


Featuring TOFU and TOFU Mini (Miso?), by Ryan Wistort when he was at MIT.

[ TOFU ]

Arash Kalantari, a PhD student at the Illinois Institute of Technology, wrote in to let us know about this incredible robot that they've been working on, called HyTAQ (Hybrid Terrestrial and Aerial Quadrotor):

HyTAQ is a novel mobile robot capable of both aerial and terrestrial locomotion. Flight is achieved through a quadrotor configuration; four actuators provide the required thrust. Adding a rolling cage to the quadrotor makes terrestrial locomotion possible using the same actuator set and control system. Thus, neither the mass nor the system complexity is increased by inclusion of separate actuators for terrestrial and aerial locomotion.

During terrestrial locomotion, the robot only needs to overcome rolling resistance and consumes much less energy compared to the aerial mode. This solves one of the most vexing problems of quadrotors and rotorcraft in general — their short operation time. Experimental results show that the hybrid robot can travel a distance 4 times greater and operate almost 6 times longer than an aerial only system. It also solves one of the most challenging problems in terrestrial robot design — obstacle avoidance. When an obstacle is encountered, the system simply flies over it.

[ IIT ]



It's not easy to program a PR2, but Georgia Tech's Maya Cakmak is working on using show and tell coupled with voice commands to allow inexperienced end-users to teach a PR2 to do new things:

Via [ io9 ]



And while we're on about PR2s, here's what happens when you have one to play with, too much free time, and good taste in classic rock:



Tested was at Combots last month and put together this top-notch interview featuring Combots' scruffy lookin' co-founder, David Calkins. Oh, and there's lots of robots beating on other robots too, of course.

They've also got a great article on some of the ins and outs of robot building which you can read here.



ETH Zurich's robotic sea turtle, Naro-Tartaruga, is now undergoing testing in a swimming pool, and it's amazing:

Okay guys,  how much money do I have to put down to take an underwater ride on your roboturtle? Because I'll do it. Seriously, I will.

[ Naro-Tartaruga ]

Thanks Kate!



We were very impressed with the new bebionic 3 cyborg hand, and this video shows all of the different grips that it's capable of executing:

It looks like you really can do pretty much anything that you could do with a normal hand. Nice.

[ Bebionic ]



Another stuck landing, this time with a half-twist!

[ YouTube ]



The X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System is slowly progressing toward carrier operations, and an important step took place just yesterday, with its first (land-based) catapult launch:

Meanwhile, a second X-47B has been hoisted aboard the USS Harry S. Truman to undergo deck handling trials but not launches or landings. Not yet, anyway.

[ ]



We'll finish up with a nice meaty TEDxZurich talk from Davide Scaramuzza, professor of robotics at the Artificial Intelligence Lab at ETH Zurich, on vision controlled autonomous flying robots.

[ RPG Lab ]

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
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

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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