YES: Let iCub Carry the Olympic Torch!

A place in the 2012 Olympic Torch Relay would be an epic day for robotkind

1 min read
YES: Let iCub Carry the Olympic Torch!

Dr. James Law, a researcher at the Department of Computer Science at Aberystwyth University, has had an absolutely fantastic idea: he's nominated the iCub robot to carry the Olympic Torch as part of the 2012 Olympic Games, which will be held in London (that's in England, folks) starting next summer.

Dr. Law is proposing that iCub be included in the torch-carrying relay in honor of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Alan Turing, one of the guys who arguably invented the computer and whose test for artificial intelligence robots are continually striving to pass. This is a great idea, but I think that iCub should be part of the torch relay on its own merits: it'll be a first for robots and great publicity for engineering education and all that. Or at least, it'll be great as long as iCub doesn't faceplant in a puddle and snuff the torch out.

The only problem with this idea is that the short-sighted and obviously outdated nomination rules specify that all nominees have to be at least 12 years of age, which would mean that iCub wouldn't technically qualify. On the upside, nowhere does it say that nominess have to be human, so maybe iCub has a shot at this after all.

[ Nomination ] and [ Aberwystwyth University ] via [ New Scientist ]

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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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