The Week's Best Robot Videos: A Machine To Comfort the Dying

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
June 8 2012 5:33 PM

The Week's Best Robot Videos: A Machine To Comfort the Dying

Every Friday, Future Tense rounds up the best robot videos of the week. Seen a great robot video? Tweet it to @FutureTenseNow, or email us.

This week, we see meet a robot that wants to be there when you die.

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The Last Moment Bot
The Last Moment Robot only seems fit for a sci-fi, dystopian world—and that’s sort of the point. Artist and designer Dan Chen created this “end of life care machine” to showcase an extreme example of a world where machines fill in for humans. The display hinges on an uncomfortable and incomplete replication of intimacy, which Chen compounds with a deliberately mechanical appearance and tone. Though it’s just a simulation, it’s upsetting to hear the machine say, “I am sorry that your family and friends can't be with you right now, but don't be afraid. I am here to comfort you.” It’s probably best to agree that robots can’t perform every human function and keep humans (or at least cats) by the bedside in our final moments.

Via The Verge.

The Bird Bot
It’s rare to see an inanimate object successfully fly by flapping like a bird, but Smartbird makes it look effortless. The wings, head, and tail look incredibly lifelike when they move, and to see the machine in flight is truly amazing. Designed by the German automation company Festo, Smartbird has a two-meter wingspan, weighs less than a pound, and can take off, fly, and land all on its own. The robot took about two years to develop, and it was all done in the spirit of learning. Festo mainly makes automated industrial machinery, but often creates animal-based robots just to see what techniques can be applied to the factory floor. To see some other elegant examples of the company’s animal based robots, check out the elephant trunk-inspired robotic arm, the blimp-like AirPenguin, and a real crowd-pleaser, AirJelly.

Via PopSci.

The Swimming Bot
“Swumanoid” is a pretty clunky name for a pretty clunky robot. But even though this swimming humanoid isn’t exactly graceful in the water, one thing it does well is perform the same motion over and over again. The robot was created at the Tokyo Institute of Technology to help researchers study water resistance, with the goal of understanding how to best design advanced swimwear. Swumanoid is a half-scale, 3-D printed model of a real person, and its capable of several different swimming motions, all easily adjustable to maximize performance. The team behind the robot hopes to soon build a full-scale model with a better range of motion so it can move faster and provide a more complete picture of the forces at play when a human takes the plunge.

Via io9.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Adam Sneed is a researcher for Future Tense at the New America Foundation. Follow him on Twitter at @atsneed.