Video Friday: Robo Cheetah Goes for a Trot, Mind-Controlled Arms, and Robots Playing Football

ICRA or no ICRA, we wouldn't miss a Video Friday, and if you like robot cheetahs, you won't want to either

2 min read
Video Friday: Robo Cheetah Goes for a Trot, Mind-Controlled Arms, and Robots Playing Football

You didn’t think that just because we’re going all-out covering ICRA that we’d let any other cool robot news slip past us this week, did you? Of course you didn’t! There are many more awesome ICRA articles in the works for next week, but in the mean time, here are two robot vids that weren’t at the conference, plus several more that definitely should have been.

We posted about Notre Dame’s annual robot football competition (that’s American football for all you rest-of-the-worlders) back in 2010, but this year’s competition was especially exciting since it featured the first robot-to-robot pass completion in the known universe:

[ ND News ] via [ Wired ]



Also in the news this week was this story about brain implants being used by disabled humans to directly control robot arms with their thoughts. The concept has already been shown to work with monkeys, and now humans have shown that they can mentally direct robots to assist them with tasks like drinking coffee:

[ Nature ] via [ Ars ]



We’ve known for a while that Sangbae Kim and the MIT Biomimetics Lab have been working on a robot cheetah under the same DARPA program as Boston Dynamics. So, we of course paid special attention to what members of the lab were presenting here at ICRA, and we found two papers: “A Compact Two DOF Magneto-elastomeric Force Sensor for a Running Quadruped,” and “Optimally Scaled Hip-Force Planning: A Control Approach for Quadrupedal Running.” Interesting stuff, for sure, but neither of those papers included this video of a scarily complete robot cheetah:


Or this video, of the robot cheetah trotting:


Or, for what it’s worth, this video, of the robot cheetah breaking its spine:


Poor little guy. That must have hurt.

[ MIT Biomemetics ]

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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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