Video Friday: PackBots on Steroids, RoboJellies on Hydrogen, and Rodney Brooks on Industry

For today's Video Friday, we've got robotic sea jellies, Rodney Brooks, and everything in between

2 min read
Video Friday: PackBots on Steroids, RoboJellies on Hydrogen, and Rodney Brooks on Industry

The world, whether or not it needs robotic jellyfish, now hastwo robojellies to choose from. It's the future, people. And there's more future to be had where that came from, since we'll also show you some new wheels for PackBots, a new way to control robots with augmented reality, and Rodney Brooks will tell you what's going on with the future of the robotics industry.

DARPA is apparently not fully satisfied with the track systems that current PackBots are equipped with, and they've asked iRobot to design an advanced robotic suspension system, which they've tested out on a modified PackBot 510. The system "enables faster transit speeds, climbing of very steep slopes, improved heading control, greater accommodation of debris entering the suspension and reduced impact forces on carried payloads," and demonstrations of it are contractually required to be accompanied by Very Serious Music:

Via [ DARPA ]

Tokyo University came up with a pretty slick augmented reality system to control a robot. It's called TouchMe, and it got an honorable mention of ICAT2011 (The 21st International Conference on Artificial Reality and Telexistence). A third person view shows users the robot with a 3D model superimposed on top of it, and as you move the model (using a touchscreen), the robot duplicates the movements. It's simple and intuitive and works brilliantly.

This robotic jellyfish sea jelly (as biologists prefer to call them) was created at the Bio-Inspired Materials and Devices Laboratory at Virginia Tech. It might not be able to fly, but on the upside, since it's powered by hydrogen it can potentially jelly around in water more or less forever. A platinum catalyst generates heat in shape memory alloys that act as muscles, and since it's reportedly designed for "underwater rescue operations," we know it's definitely destined for the military.

[ Paper ] via [ BBC ]

And finally, if you've got some time to kill (only 22 minutes), here's Rodney Brooks giving a keynote speech at Robodalen earlier this year. Among many interesting remarks (focusing on development of robotics businesses), Brooks mentions that he feels like things in robotics now are like the PC was in 1973, which I totally agree with but am also somewhat tired of hearing, since we seem to hear it every year. Still, Brooks knows as much (or more) about this stuff than just about anyone, and it's good to know that the people at the forefront of things are still optimistic about the potential of the industry overall.

Via [ ]

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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
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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