research * the future * culture

Even robots got more game than me

This super-fast robot hand dribbles, throws, and tweezes more effectively than I do. If you could observe the current state of my eyebrows, you would know this to be true.

You’ve probably already seen this footage, so I thought I’d show you some eventual applications for super-fast robot hands. (Oh, shut up. That would chafe and you know it.) Warning: Major spoilers below for Stand Alone Complex.

In all seriousness, I get really excited when I see stuff like the top video. I’m not sure where our brains mark the Uncanny Valley, but when I see these machines doing so well I feel a great upsurge of pride in human ingenuity and dedication. Lots of work went into creating that robot hand’s ability to tweeze. And why? So that it might one day use a pair of forceps or clamps while cleaning out your arteries, that’s why. The sensitivity and dexterity required to catch and grip a mobile phone might seem simple to us, but they’re the first things we lose to arthritis and stroke. Robotics is not only about improving the conditions for “artificial” life, it’s about improving the quality of human life, too. Too often, I think media outlets can perpetrate an image of roboticists as mad geniuses more interested in their machines than their fellow men. But the majority of advances in Japanese AI and robotics — from software to hardware — are now aimed at caring for children and the elderly in a safe, dignified manner. The end goals are almost banal in their humanity.

Speaking of which, where is my tweeze-bot? I’m sick of plucking these damn things myself.

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  • Madeline Ashby… a science fiction writer, futurist, speaker, and immigrant living in Toronto. She writes a column for the Ottawa Citizen. She is represented by Anne McDermid & Associates, and Jason Richman at UTA. You can buy her books here.

    She has worked with Intel Labs, the Institute for the Future, SciFutures, Nesta, Data & Society, The Atlantic Council, the ASU Center for Science and the Imagination, and others. Her short fiction has appeared in Nature, FLURB, Tesseracts, Imaginarium, and Escape Pod. Her other essays and criticism have appeared at BoingBoing, io9, WorldChanging, Creators Project, Arcfinity,, MISC Magazine, FutureNow, and elsewhere.

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    vN vN (The Machine Dynasty, #1)
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    Company Town Company Town
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    A Clock Stopped A Clock Stopped
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    Designing for Interaction: Creating Innovative Applications and Devices (2nd Edition)Super Natural Cooking: Five Delicious Ways: To Incorporate Whole & Natural Ingredients into Your CookingGluten-Free Girl and the ChefPeople Crossing Borders: An Analysis of U.S. Border Protection PoliciesHalf the Day Is NightThe Magicians

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