The December 2022 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

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Willow Garage's PR2 Robots Graduate

Eleven robots worth more than US $4 million head out to universities and research labs around the world

1 min read

It's graduation season, and yesterday Willow Garage, a start-up dedicated to accelerating the development of personal robots, sent its first graduation class of PR2s off into the world. These 11 robots are heading out to universities and labs in Germany, Japan, Belgium, and the United States, where they will help researchers figure out how robots can assist the elderly and the autistic, navigate buildings and open doors, and help people do house chores, to name just a few of the many projects in the works. At the graduation party in Menlo Park, Calif., some of the researchers told IEEE Spectrum about their plans for these robots. And then it was time to celebrate.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/v/N3Vwvb54nGk&hl=en_US&fs=1&rel=0 expand=1]

And here's Willow Garage showing off the PR2 at a pre-party press conference. The video was recorded by Spectrum's Erico Guizzo, who was embodied as a Texai, a telepresence robot also created by Willow:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/v/Xv0ovUb_LVs&hl=en_US&fs=1& expand=1]

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
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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
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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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