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Video Friday: Exploding Soft Robots, Chatbot Movie Scripts, and Quadrotor Demos

How do you instantly make a robot more awesome? Explosives. And there's more, it's Video Friday

2 min read
Video Friday: Exploding Soft Robots, Chatbot Movie Scripts, and Quadrotor Demos

Man, what I wouldn't give to have the opportunity to poke a quadrotor with a stick and have it not immediately crash into something. I always wonder if the incredible people who work in these robotics labs get up every morning and go into work and are like OMG ROBOTS!!! all day. Maybe it wears off, but every once in a while, I hope they get to take a step back and realize how jealous the rest of us are. Every Video Friday, we get even more jealous, and this week is no exception.

Chatbot programs are a lot cleverer than they used to be, but getting them to make sense consistently over more than a few sentences is still, uh, a challenge. This is what happens when you try to get one to write a movie script with you:

Film by Chris Wilson, script collaboration by Cleverbot.



At ICRA 2011, we met some microrobots from UMD that used explosive microrockets to make giant leaps. George Whitesides' group at Harvard has been working on something similar, except with robots that are soft. By igniting a mix of oxygen and methane in this robot's legs, it can jump over 30 times its height:

[ Whitesides Research Group ] via [ New Scientist ]



That absolutely crazy CrazyFlie nanoquadrotor (it's just 10 centimeters on a side) is now up for order for just $150 for a complete kit that you can put together with just a little soldering. $175 gets you a 10 DoF version with heading and altitude control.

[ CrazyFlie ]



If wiping the screen of your smartphone or tablet is just too much work for you, how about giving the job to a robot that can spent several minutes doing the job not quite as well:

Via [ Robots-Dreams ]



We have yet to match the sensing systems that can be found on insects, so if you're in desperate need of tracking down something like the sex pheromone from a female silk moth (and seriously, who isn't), a practical approach is to just set up a robot to be driven directly by a male silk moth, who is probably just as invested in success as you are:

[ Paper ] via [ Engadget ]



Our think piece for this week features Raffaello D’Andrea from ETH Zurich talking quadrotors and giving live demonstrations with robots flying around on stage. If you're a Spectrum reader, you may have seen most of these demos before, but it's still a fantastic talk, and well worth 20 minutes of your time on a Friday.

[ Zurich.Minds ] via [ RoboHub ]

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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