Video Friday: Robot Termites, Dust Puppies, and Serious Social Issues

Watch robot termites build a building, try and figure out what iRobot was thinking with a 1997 Roomba prototype, and check out a panel from the We Robot conference

2 min read
Video Friday: Robot Termites, Dust Puppies, and Serious Social Issues

Phew, we made it to another Video Friday! That "phew" is because it's been a busy few weeks in the world of robots, and we've still got ICRA to look forward to in Minnesota starting in just 10 days followed directly by both ROSCon and Maker Faire.

If there have been just too many robotics events for you to keep up with, we feel your pain, and we've started up a Google Calendar to try and keep track of everything. We've literally just started it, but you can subscribe to it (the link is in the column over on the right) and as we add events, they'll show up. Shoot us an email if you've got an event you'd like us to stick on there, too.

Meanwhile, on with the videos! Huzzah!

There was no way we were risking our fancy new GoPro camera on anything much deadlier than micro-rockets, but Matt Maxham stuck one on his 220-pound combat robot, Sewer Snake. Predictably, violence ensues, but you've never seen it from a perspective like this before.



Aila is certainly one of the, uh, curviest robots we've ever seen, and she's learning how to learn how to grasp things from human demonstrations using a motion capture glove. For example, she can now pick shoes up out of a box, which would be useful except that Aila doesn't have any feet. Oh well.

[ Aila ]



We wrote about Termes last year, but the cool new bit (towards the end of this video) shows, in simulation, robots stacking building blocks to create temporary removable scaffolding that allows for the construction of much larger structures.




iRobot somehow managed to get its steely robotic claws on the "iRobot" YouTube user name, which means it probably had to bump off the previous user. We won't ask too many questions, as long as it keeps posting videos like this one:

Dust Puppy bears one giant similarity to another cleaning robot that we won't bother mentioning, and I'm kinda curious as to the process that iRobot went through wherein it started with a Swiffer-type robot and then shifted over to an actual vacuum.


iRobot also wants you to know that it's come up with its own song, and if you think you can dance to it, you can win yourself a brand new Roomba.

Kudos on working "robot vacuum cleaner" into a reasonably catchy pop song.

[ iRobot ]



Lastly, for all you hardcore robot types who are still with us, here's a 93 minute clip of one of the panels from the We Robot conference on robot legality, held in Miami about a week ago. The moderator is robot legality genius and friend o' the blog Ryan Calo, and the subject is Social Issues in Robotics, of which there are many, and the panel is absolutely top-notch fascinating.

[ We Robot Conference ]

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?

Keep Reading ↓Show less