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Video Monday: Curiosity's First Martian Year, Android Newscasters, and Baxter Gets a Promotion

We heard you missed Video Friday, and so did we, so here's a Video Monday to make up for it

3 min read
Video Monday: Curiosity's First Martian Year, Android Newscasters, and Baxter Gets a Promotion

By the time we put together our post on the DARPA Robotics Finals, we were too late to put Video Friday in time for, you know, Friday. And we feel bad about that, we really do. But not we feel especially bad now, because Automaton reader Mike wrote in to let us know how sad he was that we missed (another) Video Friday.

We can't turn back the clock, but we're going to do what we can to make up for it: Mike, this Video Monday is for you.

Curiosity has been on Mars for an entire Martian year now. A year! It's still amazing that the robot even managed to land on Mars at all, if you ask us, and we were there. We were at JPL, anyway, not on Mars. Our travel budget doesn't cover Mars.


This is the second year anniversary for Curiosity; this one is a Martian year (687 Earth days), while the first one was an Earth year.

[ Curiosity ]



We met Affetto's head back in 2011; here's what looks to be an updated half-body in progress:

[ Project Affetto ]



Construction is dull, dirty, and dangerous. And you know what that means: ROBOTS!

[ IAAC ]



Sigh, yet another thing that robots can do that I can't:

[ paxshikai ]



Rethink Robotics is making good on their promise to keep upgrading Baxter's software to make it faster and more efficient. Call it a promotion, if you like, 'cause that's what Rethink is doing:

But seriously, here's the speed difference:


[ Rethink Robotics ]



From the brilliant folks who brought you the chocolate copter, it's the ice copter! Harder than it looks to make, and there's something particularly nerve-racking about watching the structure of your robot dripping away in-flight:

[ YouTube ]



Ollie, as it turns out, is exactly the right height to sneak underneath a skateboard at full speed:

[ Ollie ]



Affordable follow-me camera drones are going to make aerial footage a lot more common, but I still think that Team Blacksheep puts together the absolute best stuff. This is Uruguay:

[ Team Blacksheep ]



It took eight months to build using only spare time, but a fully programmable, near life-size ABB robot made out of LEGO bricks is a spectacular thing to behold. 


[ ABB ]



I'm not sure why the world needs android newscasters, but we've got 'em anyway, thanks to Hiroshi Ishiguro. Called Kodomoroid and Otonaroid, they're possibly more lifelike than some broadcast newscasters who purport to be real humans:

Via [ Japan Times ]



For the low low price of $2.3 million, this well animated but questionably realistic 20-meter tall car juggling robot could actually be a thing, maybe:

[ BugJuggler ]



This is clever: rather than try and develop some kind of submarine for exploring ice-covered oceans, NASA instead went with an axle-type rover. The rover is waterproof and has enough positive buoyancy that it "sticks" to the underside of the ice, and if you flip your perspective upside-down, you can imagine that you're just driving on the bottom of the ocean, instead of on the top:

Via [ NatGeo ]



Here's some discussion to finish our Video Monday for the week:

What is a robot in 2014? Founder and CTO of Rethink Robotics Rodney Brooks and co-author of The Second Machine Age, Andrew McAfee, sit down to discuss the past, present, and future of robotics. 

The discussion isn't quite as expansive as that, since it predictably focuses in on jobs, but it's an interesting (and short) exploration of how humans and robots might be forced into cooperative home care by demographic shifts:


Editor's Note:This Friday is a holiday in the United States, so Video Friday will be back next week. Thanks for reading!

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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