Video Friday: Thought-Controlled Robot, PackBot With Jamming Gripper, Furby Teardown

In this edition of Video Friday, we bring you humans controlling robots, humans building robots, and humans tearing robots apart!

2 min read
Video Friday: Thought-Controlled Robot, PackBot With Jamming Gripper, Furby Teardown

In this edition of Video Friday, we bring you humans controlling robots, humans interacting with robots, humans building robots, and humans tearing robots apart!

Many research groups are developing brain-machine interfaces capable of controlling advanced prosthetics  such as bionic arms and hands. But how about using your thoughts to control a full humanoid robot? That's what French and Japanese researchers demonstrated recently. A team from the CNRS-AIST Joint Robotics Laboratory showed how a person, wearing a cap with electrodes, could control a HRP-2 humanoid and make it perform tasks such as grasping objects. Though the range of tasks the robot can perform appears limited—and controlling a robot this way might require significant mental effort—it's nonetheless an impressive demonstration of how the lines between humans and machines are blurring.

Via [ DigInfo ]


Automaton readers probably remember the fascinating (and totally weird) jamming gripper originally invented by a group from Cornell University, University of Chicago, and iRobot. It consisted of a balloon filled with a granular material like ground coffee; by applying vacuum to the balloon, researchers could make it harden and conform to the shape of objects, in effect working as a robotic gripper. Researchers have used the jamming approach to build elephant trunk-like manipulators, dart-shooting robot arms, and even creepy crawling hexapods. Now iRobot is finding some more useful applications for the balloon robot hand, such as opening doors.


Check out this little guy, a small Japanese humanoid called Robi. I know, we want one too! But apparently it's not for sale. You have to build your own, using parts that come with issues of a weekly Japanese hobbyist magazine you have to subscribe to. According to Gizmag, it will take 70 issues (at a cost of $25 apiece) to get all the parts. The fully-assembled Robi is about 30 centimeters (12 inches) tall and weighs 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds). It's a creation of famous Japanese robot designer Tomotaka Takahashi of ROBO GARAGE, known for developing the Evolta humanoid robot for Panasonic. I hope more robots like Robi could be mass produced and sold for reasonable prices. Robot makers, what are you waiting for?

Via [ Gizmag ]


I don't know much about Aisoy Robotics. All I know is they're a Spanish start-up and have built a little robot  that loves to talk. They're offering it as a platform for AI research. The video below shows how to program the robot to understand speech, detect touch, and respond accordingly. It's all done through a browser-based visual interface. Like other modular robots such as the TurtleBot and Qbo, the Aisoy bot runs ROS and users can install "apps" to give the robot new capabilities. Developing easy-to-use, effective user interfaces is one of the biggest challenges for consumer robotics. Aisoy has a nice voice recognition and synthesis engine, so we'll keep our eyes on them. 

[ Aisoy Robotics ]


What's almost as cool as building robots? Tearing robots apart to see how they work, of course! The evil geek geniuses at Adafruit Industries got one of the new Furbies and took it apart "as much as possible while still keeping it (semi) functional." Poor robot owl. Or is it a hamster? Check out the vid below to see the result. And if you want to do the same to your Furby (don't!), check out their step-by-step "epidermectomy" tutorial

[ Adafruit Industries ]

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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