Science Fiction Roundup: Robotics Update

Hello, everyone!

I decided to take a break from the heavy stuff this week and point you all to some interesting articles in a much-overdue Science Fiction Roundup.

I read dozens of tech-related blogs and websites, often finding inspiration for science fiction stories. Every now and then, I find some great articles to share, and round ’em up for your convenience.

This week’s post is all about our favorite future overlords and their current progress toward global domination (with a little help from us humans, of course)

Crushing Things With Your Robot Claws is Now a More Satisfying Experience

human hand and robot hand shakingHere’s something us humans can benefit from: tactile response in prosthetics. We take for granted every day that the ability to feel pressure and texture sensations in the skin is an incredibly intricate and amazingly complex mechanism. For people who need prosthetic limbs, tactile response is something sorely missing, making for a constant reminder of the “substitute” nature of the device. First, you need a type of sensor that can detect texture and pressure (check). But after you have a way of generating proper data to mimic human touch-sense, you need to be able to give that data to the human brain.

Researchers at the University of Chicago have managed to get close to that goal with Bonobo monkeys, which is a step closer to development for humans. They trained the monkeys to respond to specific touch sensations, then stimulated the monkeys’ brains in such a way that got the same response. This helped the researchers to map points and define specific voltages to mimic the desired sensations, which will be necessary to make sure the touch sensations from the prosthesis translates to the brain properly.

Check out the article at 33rd Square for more information.

Boston Dynamics Bring More Options to Skynet’s Table

I’ve mentioned several of Boston Dynamics’ projects before, especially their very impressive PETMAN humanoid terminator testing platform. Recently, their zippy little cheetah-like WildCat platform has graduated from the lab to cord-less operation. The robot can gallop at up to 15 miles per hour, as you can see in the video. While it might seem a little awkward (it faceplants in part of the video, that is, if it had a face), this is an incredible development for rugged robot mobility. I can’t quite work up the nightmare-inducing terror over this one, but I’m sure it will be a prove to be a valuable tool in our eventual extinction.

PETMAN’s successor ATLAS is also in development, expanding on the unsettlingly-human movements to a bipedal balance system and less-terrifying form. I currently lacks a head, but it hardly looks threatening at all as it gingerly tip-toes through the boulders, does it?

Check out the articles on WildCat and ATLAS on Singularity Hub for more information.

 Too Cute to Be Threatening… Right?

Just to show some contrast, here’s a new dancing owl robot. Because kids want those, I guess? ixi-Play is a new interactive robot designed by Witty Worx to play educational games with children using its 720p camera, multiple touch sensors, and internal dual-core processor. I do question how many parents will see this as yet another excuse to leave their young children unsupervised for extended periods of time, but look at how much fun this kid’s having:

Check the article on 33rd Square for more information.

That’s it for this week! Next week I’ll wrap up my discussion of William Gibson’s social criticism. Until then, what do you think about these robots? Cool? Terrifying? Let me know in the comments below!


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