Video Friday: Warm Robot Hand, Rugged RHex, and ROBO-ONE

Osaka University wants robot handshakes to feel natural, Boston Dynamics wants RHex to go anywhere, and ROBO-ONE brings the robot fightin' action

2 min read
Video Friday: Warm Robot Hand, Rugged RHex, and ROBO-ONE

It's been a good week for robot videos -- with Hume and Sand Flea and all -- but that certainly doesn't mean that we don't have some good stuff left over for you today. Japanese researchers have a friendly and warm robot hand they'd like you to shake, Boston Dynamics is out to impress with a new extra-rugged version of the RHex robot, and the ROBO-ONE results are in with robot-on-robot fighting action and a rather hilariously inept footrace.

I'm not sure that telepresence robots need a dedicated hand-shaking tool, but it's interesting to think about how having a physical and manipulative presence might make them more useful. In any case, a research group at Osaka University developed this hand that can replicate texture, grip force, and even body heat, specifically for shaking hands with people remotely:

Via [ DigInfo ]


While somewhat eclipsed by Sand Flea this week, Boston Dynamics also released some video of a new ruggedized version of RHex, the six-legged platform originally developed in 2000 by the Kod*Lab group, now at the University of Pennsylvania.

These kinds of rough and wet terrain maneuvers might also be possible with a tracked robot (especially a robot with some of those movable paddle-tracks like the PackBot), but track systems are heavy and complicated and full of parts that can get dirty or break. RHex's wheel/legs have one moving part each (at the shoulder joint), and if something should happen to one of the legs, it looks like you can just slap on another one with 30 seconds and a screwdriver. Plus, you can tune 'em, or use paddles to allow the robot to swim.

[ RHex ]


The 20th ROBO-ONE competition took place this month, and the winner was GAROO, which held onto its title versus Gargoyle Mini for the $12,000 purse. Whether or not you're into the competitive fighting aspect, the agility of these robots is remarkable:

Via [ Robots Dreams ]

ROBO-ONE also hosted a 9-meter footrace, which exemplifies just how hard it is to get a robot to move quickly in a straight line on a smooth surface: 

I don't know if that first one was cheating by walking while bent over like that, but it did seem rather more effective. You can watch the rest of the competition on YouTube, here.


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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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