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Video Friday: NASA's Opportunity Rover Celebrates 10 Years on Mars

This tough robot has spent a decade on the Red Planet and is still going

2 min read
Video Friday: NASA's Opportunity Rover Celebrates 10 Years on Mars

A decade ago, it was 2004. In 2004, I had long hair, was convinced I was going to be a geologist, and I didn't care a jot about robots. Also in 2004, a pair of NASA robotic rovers landed on Mars to begin an ambitious three months worth of exploration and scientific discovery. Three months! That's how long NASA engineers expected the rovers would survive. But as of today, one of those rovers is still alive and well, roving around and doing science.

NASA's Opportunity really deserves to be front page news every single day that it manages to not succumb to having spent a decade on THE PLANET MARS without any sort of direct tech support whatsoever. Seriously. This robot is stupendouslycomplicated, and was only really designed for a three-month mission. Operating for six months would have been impressive. A year? That's crazy talk. And it's now been 10 years.

JPL has put together some highlight videos to help celebrate; the first three are bite-sized (just three very worthwhile minutes each), while the last one is a full NASA press conference for you hardcore fans:





[ 10 Years on Mars ]



We like to fantasize about robots doing their own thing, but working very (very) closely with humans has a huge amount of potential for one particular type of application: rehabilitation. Carnegie Mellon has developed a sort of robotic ankle support with pneumatically powered muscles that doesn't just provide support and increase range of motion, but can also "reeducate" your neuromuscular system if it needs a little bit of help. The sensors they've come up with are especially cool, since they rely on liquid metal to measure flexible deformation:

[ CMU ]



The Discovery Channel (the one in Canada) stopped by Texas A&M's AMBER Lab to watch their latest human-like walking robot try and handle obstacles:

[ AMBER Lab ]



I have no idea why the defense industry is so determined to make their robot videos as dramatic as possible, but that seems to be what they do. Eventually, this game of one-upsmanship will result in all robot demo vids being just one gigantic continuous explosion, but we're not there yet, so here's some footage of Northrop Grumman's MQ-8C Fire Scout:

[ Fire Scout ]



NAO is entertaining enough as a robot, but giving it a portable arm-projector is a fantastic idea:

Via [ YouTube ]



If you don't need a telepresence robot system on wheels, Revolve Robotics' KUBI now works with (appropriately enough) Android:

[ Revolve Robotics ]



It's always nice to see Baxter out in the wild being productive, and here's one working at a custom injection molded plastics factory:

[ Rethink Robotics ]



Does your robot arm have balls? If not, maybe it should:


[ Empire Robotics ]



Yep, I totally want to go to the parties that REEM goes to:

[ PAL Robotics ]



We'll close things out with a TED Talk from Guy Hoffman, who's been giving robots soul through creative use of music and art:

[ IDC ] via [ TED ]

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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