We're at IROS 2012!

IEEE Spectrum is in Portugal to bring you the 2012 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems

1 min read
We're at IROS 2012!

Don't mind the fact that there's a fabulous resort and beach in the background of this picture: we're all business here at the 2012 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, or IROS.

Last year, IROS was in San Francisco, and this year, we're in Vilamoura, on the southern coast of Portugal, which may or may not be one of the most popular resort regions in all of Europe. There are 11 presentation tracks all going on simultaneously, with new talks taking place every 15 minutes for the next three days, and we're going to be at every single one of them. Impossible, you say? Probably. But we're going to do it anyway, or (more likely) kill ourselves trying.

Check back all this week for exclusives from IROS, and we'll be bringing you awesome news from the forefront of robotics research for the next several weeks at least: there's a lot to see, and we're going to make sure you don't miss a thing.

[ IROS 2012 ]

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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