The Week’s Best Robot Videos: A Prosthetic Arm for Non-Supervillains

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Nov. 9 2012 11:26 AM

The Week’s Best Robot Videos: A Prosthetic Arm for Non-Supervillains

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, robots lend a hand, take a look at the skies, and remix an old sound.

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The Prosthetic Bot 

With pop culture representatives like the Terminator and Darth Vader, it’s easy to think robotic prosthetic arms are only made for villains. But this device, the Bebionic3, shows just how useful advanced prosthetics can be for the less nefarious (and, for that matter, the less fictional). The arm integrates with its user’s muscles, receiving signals to control its range of motions and to make it one of the most functional prosthetics to date. The hand can be used for a wide range of everyday activities, including using a mouse and keyboard, writing with a pen, and even cracking some eggs. And if you still think it can’t quite do everything a person might need, just use it to pour yourself a cold one and relax.

Via BuzzFeed.

The Dragonfly Bot 

For all the advancements with aerial drones in recent years, the vehicles pretty much always look the same —either quadrotors or large fixed-wing planes. A new type of flying robot, the TechJect Dragonfly, draws inspiration from its namesake insect to combine the benefits of rotors and wings. The whole device weighs less than an ounce and is about six inches long. Its current battery power lets it hover in place for eight to 10 minutes, and it can fly in motion for up to 30 minutes. It also carries 20 sensors, including a camera, lending itself for use as an eye in the sky. The bot was developed by a team at Georgia Tech, and TechJect has an Indiegogo campaign to bring the device to market. The video shows some pretty great potential uses, like streaming video from a remote feed to an iPhone or conducting some quick and easy aerial photography. Though, while it might feel great to carry a skycam in your pocket, it’s probably best if we stop pretending this is James Bond-level technology. After all, the Dragonfly is not exactly a stealthy tape-recorder camera.

Via GizMag. 

The Dodgy Bot 

It doesn’t matter how well a robot flies if it keeps slamming into things. To make sure a tree branch doesn’t spoil a bot’s flight in the park, a team at Cornell University built a system that relies on a camera and some mathematics to avoid whatever might bring a quadrotor to the ground. As the bot flies around, it scans the environment to determine what might be an obstacle, and then computes that obstacle’s size, shape, and position. When testing the bot in this video, the team only had two crashes, and both were caused by wind gusts, according to IEEE Spectrum. The team behind this project is looking to help the bot correct for high winds, and to get it to avoid moving objects like birds. This isn’t the first object-avoidance system we’ve seen, but it takes a rather novel approach by relying on one camera rather than two to see the world —an innovation that reduces weight and power consumption.

Via NBC News.

I Love the ’80s Bot 

Here’s a robot that brings a technological advancement full-circle. Musician and roboticist Moritz Simon Geist used the first programmable electronic drum machine, 1980’s TR-808, as inspiration for this robo-musical amalgamation. What he demonstrates here is a fully functioning electronic drum machine, but he’s ditched the synthetic sound for actual, real-life percussion. This drum kit is considerably larger than its electronic predecessor — it looks like it takes up an entire wall — but hey, at least it sounds good. It’s a creative example of revisiting an iconic technology, and Geist deserves credit for preserving the idea while casting aside the most unmistakably ‘80s beats that we’d all like to just forget about already.

Via CBS News.

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

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