Monday, November 8, 2010

Robot hands, robot guards

Two snippets on robots:
  • An article in ScienceNOW (Oct. 25, 2010) describes a new robotic "hand" that can pour the contents of a glass into a mug and draw a square with a pen. The hand has no fingers. It's a "thin rubber sack filed with coffee grains or small glass spheres." When its flexible surface is pushed onto an object, a pipe in the hand's "wrist" sucks out some air, and voilĂ ! the sack contracts and can lift the object. There's a nice video to illustrating its use. This hand is another example of how imitating humans might not be the best way to design robots - mimicking the human hand has not been very successful so far.
  • An article in the New York Times (Nov. 3, 2010) describes the increasing appeal (and decreasing cost) of using toy robots that can be remotely controlled via the Internet to keep an eye on one's home. The robots are relatively inexpensive and typically can move around the house and send sights and sounds to the remote user. The Times article mentions the entertainment value of these robots, but emphasizes their use as a security system. To me, they look more like an insecurity system; our family, at least, would feel more anxious going out of town leaving a robot behind that we could use to check on our house. We can't check it now, so we don't think about it. Make it possible to check for trouble and we'll frequently think about trouble. I'll pass.
Ken Pimple, PAIT Project Director

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