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Yes, that is a man wearing a jetpack, running 200 meters in 25 seconds. Welcome to DARPA, where anything is possible. (via Arizona State)


A new DARPA funded project in progress is a jetpack that would allow soldiers to run a 4 minute mile. Yep, forget flying technology. We're going old school with a project that seems more – well – down to earth.

 

While prototypes for flying jetpacks are super bulky, this pack is much slimmer and only weights about  11 pounds. It's worn like a backpack and is tilted horizontally to propel runners forward, faster. DARPA hasn't released any real details about the tech in this jetpack, which is to be expected of military technology. All that is known for now is that its power source runs dual rotors and has air intakes on either side. So, perhaps it is using air to generate propulsion? However, knowing DARPA, it's probably utilizing magic it sourced from a futuristic society... which is sourced using their top-secret, time machine. Duh.

 

Arizona State University's DARPA lab is calling this jetpack 4MM, which stands for 4 minute mile. That is the goal of this project, however, much work remains to be done.. Their recent trials have only made runners faster by mere seconds. However, the runners did use less energy to achieve their mile. Also, the figures don't account for how much the jetpack would slow down a runner due to the extra 11 pounds.


 

Still, they are confidently working towards fixing these problems. Even though soldiers could run fast, conservation of energy and ability to work at top-performance for longer is extremely important on the battlefield. 4MM intends to ensure all soldiers can run at top speed for longer in order to have a major advantage over their opponents. This new technology can not only allow soldiers to hatch a fast-escape plan when needed, but it can also allow new tactical plans that can make the difference between winning or losing; which in the game of war, translates into life or death.

 

If you look across DARPA's latest funded projects, like the Soft Exosuit and brain microchips to help repair the body, soldiers could be the next superhuman race. With a combination of 4MM and the Soft Exosuit, soldiers could drastically increase their endurance and strength.

 

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The Soft Exosuit prototype from Harvard's Wyss Institute. (via Harvard)


Harvard's Wyss Institute has been working on their 'Soft Exosuit' for a while. And, as some of you have seen from The Hacksmith's Elysium Exoskeleton, many people have been trying to create an Iron Man suit to fulfill the testosterone-filled dreams of men everywhere. But, Wyss Institute's Soft Exosuit is way different than the other suits that have been developed so far. While current exoskeletons typically look like a robot cage that humans can wear and (kindof) function inside of with the help of tons of battery power, hardware, and software, this suit is made of fabric.

 

The US Army and DARPA have been trying to create an exoskeleton that soldiers can wear under their uniforms to prevent fatigue, prevent injuries, and increase load-bearing capacity. This is all a part of their Warrior Web project. However, DARPA seems to like Harvard's solution much better as they recently funded their Soft Exosuit with $2.9 million. Of course, DARPA plans to use this technology as standard issue for soldiers, but the Wyss Institute is also planning on developing their suit for stroke victims as well. Who knows...eventually, all of us could buy a Soft Exosuit at our local Walmart.

 

The Soft Exosuit works by using fabric to mimic the way our muscles and tendons work to aid in assisting the natural movement of the leg without constricting motion. The 'functional textiles' are woven together and laced with soft sensors that give more or less tension to aid in protecting the joints and lessening fatigue. The pants have a built-in microcontroller that acts as the brain of the Soft Exosuit, working to control the fabric tendons and muscles. It is also supposed to sense whether the user is running, walking, crouching, and more.

 

This suit is the softest and least power-hungry exoskeleton to date. However, the current suit is only a pair of pants, so there is still no word on when, or if, a full exosuit will be build. However, it seems the Wyss Institute has taken a big step in the right direction with their novel approach to exoskeletons which may realistically be used and mass produced.

 

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The Snot Bot flying overhead with sensors below to measure how whales react when being approached by drones. (via Ocean Alliance)

 

Drones may begin to usurp dogs as man's best friend... or at least researcher's best friend. Ocean Alliance in conjunction with some researchers and students from Olin College of Engineering have developed 'Snot Bot' the friendly flying robot that collects 'blow' from whales. Why? Whale 'blow' is the snot that whales eject through their blow holes as they surface for air. So, whales actually aren't simply ejecting water out of their blow holes they are ejecting snot with a powerful force – that is quite a sneeze. This whale snot is important as researchers can gain important information like hormone levels, stress levels, DNA, and more. From a big picture standpoint, having more readily available whale snot samples on a regular basis can allow researchers to gain a better picture of how life is going under the sea and whether human interference is lowering a whale's quality of life. For instance, are whales afraid of huge ocean liners? Do whales experience noise pollution as a result of humans crossing through their environment on party boats?

 

And most importantly, how is this affecting their lives, if at all? Whale blow has always been valuable to researchers, but the current methods of collecting whale blow is invasive as it causes the whale stress, and is also dangerous – no one wants to be hit by a whale's tail. While robot assisted technology is already being used to collect samples, it hasn't been done with a flying drone before. This method is meant to be unobtrusive: so stealthy that the whales don't even notice. It is also much cheaper than the current technologies used, costing about $2,800 in total.

 

How does the Snot Bot work? It is really simple, actually. A drone is flown above the whale's blow hole as it surfaces and it has sponges attached to it which catch the whale snot as it hovers above. Then the drone can fly back to the boat and researchers can harvest their precious samples.   The researchers do have to get permission from the Federal Aviation Commission (FAA) in order to try this on real whales.

 

Recently, they have been testing their drone technology on a type of whale emulator which is basically sensors hovering above the water on catamarans. The sensors capture what a whale would hear, see, and feel when the Snot Bot collects samples. Their data suggests that whales would hear, feel, and see very little. However, the FAA can be a tough cookie to crack.


 

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A little girl is in awe of the beautiful holographic butterfly. The butterfly looks great fro the font, but.. (via Leia Display Systems)


Ever since science fiction opened up minds about what is possible, people have been wondering when flying cars, hovercrafts, and holographic messages would become a reality. While we won't be seeing hover cars on the main street anytime soon, we may just be one step closer to those holographic messages.

Leia Display Systems (LDS) is an innovation in display technology. It creates a large touchscreen; the LDS uses light, water-vapor, and air to project images on a fine mist. The LDS is also interactive with built in sensors keeping track of movement from users. This means users can put their hands through it, rotate objects, and walk through the screen. There's no doubt the technology looks impressive if the videos on LDS' site are anything to go by. The short clip shows the LDS in action from a model walking through a screen of feathers to then sprout wings to a Mercedes Benz driving through the invisible curtain and have it shatter like glass.

 

Right now, the technology is being cited for advertising companies, but the video featured on the website mentions the LDS being used for gaming without specifying how. The LDS is currently available in two different sizes: the smaller LDS S-95 measuring 95 x 65 cm and the LDS X-300 measuring 3m x 2.5m. In terms of consumption, the S-95 uses around 400ml of water per hour, while the X-300 model uses 4 liters per hour. Anyone interested in having one of these for their next business event or grand party can rent or buy a unit. Prices available on request.

 


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Mbody Coach, smart shorts that track your activity and coach you real-time. (via kickstarter)

 

Myontec is looking for funding on kickstater to amp up their current Mbody high-tech smart exercise shorts. While their current Mbody exercise shorts are already being used by professional athletes who have the advantage of coachs and staff on hand that can interpret the incoming analytics, general consumers don't have this luxury. In fact, most fitness consumers also don't have the $1000 to spend on the current Mbody gear either. So, Myontec is trying to move into the consumer market by offering Mbody shorts that act as a personal trainer helping you stay balanced and hit your fitness goals: they are calling the new collection Mbody Coach.

 

Mbody Coach will still run real-time analysis of heart rate, muscle load, cadence, speed, and balance. All of this data can be seen on your smartphone and synced up to a laptop for real-time data and tracking of progress. However, the technology will also issue voice commands based upon the real-time data to coach users as they exercise. This line of their shorts are also on offer for much less than their previous Mbody collection and it does way more. The early bird specials on their kickstater campaign start at $159. While these early steals are already gone, there are currently still early bird deals available from $329. That is way less than buying personal training lessons for a year at the gym. Of course, it really depends on how dedicated the average person is to their fitness level.

 

One invaluable voice coaching command from the Mbody Coach is it's ability to spot whether a user is in a position that makes them more likely to incur an injury. The other voice coaching commands will tell a user when they are fully warmed up enough to begin their workout. The voice coaching will also work a user through their target goals, coaching them along the way to ensure that they body is ready to go full-throttle, or letting you know to back off. Overall, it is a pretty impressive and professional piece of tech for someone training to run a marathon, for instance.

 

They are currently about 10% towards achieving their goal of $99,000 with 31 more days to go. I hope this gets produced, in the event that I ever decide to get intense about my physical fitness.

 

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Sure, they’re blue but we can’t have white light without them (via wiki)

 

Eons ago (roughly 1907), scientists began messing with the idea of LEDs in the form of electroluminescence using a crystal of silicon carbide and a cat’s-whisker detector. Apparently, Edison’s light bulb was no longer cutting the mustard and people wanted tiny little lights in their radios, which is probably why RCA was playing around with gallium arsenide-based semiconductors back in 1955.


Regardless, LEDs have come a long way in the last hundred years and has become the dominant light source on the planet overtaking incandescent and fluorescent lighting. While the LEDs manufactured today are highly efficient, energy saving and environmentally friendly, they do have their drawbacks, in this case the ability to generate a broad spectrum of colors. More specifically, white light due to the fact scientists couldn’t produce blue light in LED form.



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It’s all in the GaN- gallium nitride revolutionized blue LED lighting paving the way for white (via wiki)


Confused yet? Ok, let’s break it down in simple terms- in order to create bright, efficient white light, green or red LEDs need to be combined with a blue LED. They could also be shown through a phosphor that emits red and green light. Sure there have been blue LEDs in existence since the 70’s but the material they are made from made them pretty much useless in the broad spectrum (pun intended) of practical applications.


By the late 80’s, the peoples demand for bright, shiny things continued to grow and there still were not any devices (much less radios) with tiny LEDs that glowed bright white or blue. Noticing those demands, three material scientists decided the world could wait no longer for bright, efficient blue LEDs and began developing their own using gallium nitride.

 

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Meijo University Prof. Isamu Akasaki, second right, receives flower bouquet at a news conference after winning the Nobel prize in physics at the university in Nagoya, central Japan. Picture: AP Photo/Kyodo News. Source: AP

 

In the early 90’s, Professors Isamu Akasaki (Nagoya University), Hiroshi Amano (Nagoya University) and Shuji Nakamura (University of California) began working on a way to grow gallium crystals big enough to be used to emit blue light. They found that they could do so using a specially designed scaffold made in part with sapphire. That’s the key, different materials emit a different colored light when applied to LEDs and gallium was the ticket in emitting blue.


Gallium isn’t without its troubles as it tends to become poisoned when exposed to hydrogen. The people would have to wait a few years more before they would get bright, shiny blue or white lights. To get around that issue, the scientists ‘doped’ up the gallium using aluminum or zinc but ultimately went with indium, which protects the gallium from the hydrogen used in manufacturing the semiconductor the LED resides on.


The hard work that all three endeavored over the years to get an efficient blue LED earned the trio a Nobel Prize this year in physics. Not only does their work provide bright and shiny LEDs in our mobile devices but also reduces the power draw on the grid when used for lighting our homes. Not only that, they are also better for the environment over compact florescent lighting (CFLs) due to the fact that the latter is filled with mercury. The trio will receive their prizes in Stockholm in December, where their breakthroughs will be seen lighting up the homes all over the city.


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An Ariel view of Masdar City, a futuristic utopia near 11 miles from Abu Dhabi (via Masdar City)

 

What is better than a futuristic utopia that has a population of computers and robots? A sci-fi cheesy video about a deserted futuristic utopia that is saturated with computers. Yep. This video really demonstrates the oddity that is Masdar City, a self-contained city meant to house 10,000 people... and which currently holds none. OK, maybe there are a few humans around, but only because they have robots companions to love and care for them in the clear, unpolluted Masdar City.

 

Instead of allowing for people to get around on cars, the city has self-driving vehicles to take you around the city. You can also take a stroll through the beautiful, barren, and desolate buildings and public fountains. Everything is made with just the right amount of uniformity and harmony to give you the creeps and make you feel like you're in The Giver.

 

Then again, another part of me actually wants to live there in peace and harmony... forever and ever – since I'll obviously be able to cryogenically preserve my body.

 

It is no wonder that this promise land called Masdar City lies only 11 miles from the famed 'fake flower', Abu Dhabi. The city is powered by a 87,777 solar panel plant. This makes the city carbon neutral as there will be no need to drive in utopic: robots will take you where you need to go. Masdar City actually calls itself a 'cleantech cluster'. This basically means it has a crazy ton of technology clustered in one place, without polluting the air. In fact, humans would make this place less eco-friendly. And so, the robot uprising begins here: In a world where clean robots must be rid of dirty, dirty humans...or not.

 

Masdar City is still under construction and struggling to get businesses to make it their home. Without grocery stores deciding to root themselves here, it would be hard to sustain human life. As sustainable as it seems, it would be hard to have a community garden in the walls of this concrete and steel jungle. It seems like a pretty cool, trippy place to visit though.


 

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Robotic fabric in operation. (via Purdue)


Soft robots are beginning to make a name for themselves within the community for robotics. First came the indestructible worm and now Purdue University is joining in on the fun with its robotic skin – a thin, robotic sleeve that can turn any malleable substance into a mobile bot.

 

The project at Purdue is headed by Rebecca Kramer and centers around creating a robotic fabric that can be easily slipped onto any flexible substance to make it mobile. The fabric is fitted with sensors that allow it to expand and contract, giving the malleable substance the ability to slither and wriggle like a worm. RoboWorm, go!

 

The robotic fabric relies on polymer and shape-memory alloy sensors that coil when heated, giving the robotic skin the power of actuation and sensing. Also, since the fabric relies on temperature for movement, the robot is extremely energy-efficient, portable and suitable for just about any setting, even space.

 

Kramer and her colleagues hope the robotic sleeve can provide astronauts and other researchers with a portable, easy-to-use mobile robot that can explore tough terrains without a battery pack. The design team also thinks the soft bot may give a hand in the development of medical braces on demand. Since the sleeve can “lock” into into a certain position, it may be useful as a medcal brace in emergency situations.

 

It’ll be a little while before these robotic sleeves replace traditional space rovers and plaster medical braces, but it makes a strong case for the potential significance soft bots in our world.

 

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RU’s new color display technology can produce vivid colors likened to HD LCD displays (via Rice University)

 

Having the ultimate camouflage has certainly helped fictional characters such as Harry Potter, the Predator and Sue Richards (Fantastic Four) but could it ever become a reality for us mere mortals? It’s certainly a possibility thanks to some researchers from Rice University, who are developing metamaterials that could copy the way a squid camouflages itself by changing its colors. In essence, it’s materials that can ‘see’ colors and match them.


Metamaterials exhibit properties not found in nature and consist of multiple materials such as metals and plastics. Due to the material’s shape, geometry and orientation, it can effect light waves and sound, making them the ideal choice for a Predator type cloak. The key to those properties lies in the size of the structural elements themselves, which are smaller than the wavelength of the waves they effect. Obviously, the researchers capitalized on those properties in developing their ‘squid skin’. So how exactly could they achieve the ultimate camouflage without using magic of some kind? In a word- aluminum. Yep, in this case aluminum is the key, specifically aluminum nanorods that are densely packed into a 5-micron square pixel, which can deliver bright red, green and blue hues almost like an HD LCD display.


Rice University’s new display technology functions by varying the length and spacing of those aluminum nanorods, thereby creating dozens of vivid colors. Unlike plasmonic aluminum, which produces washed out colors, the nanorods allowed the researchers to focus the spectrum into a single, bright color. Could this new display technology be harnessed for the ultimate in HD LCD/LED TVs?


It isn’t out of the realm of possibility, as the researchers plan to build an LCD display using the technology and components found in most displays today, including liquid crystals, polarizers and individually addressable pixels. The aluminum nanorod-based pixels are about 40-times smaller than the pixels used in today’s LCD displays, with each nanorod measuring out at 100-nanometers long and 40-nanometers wide. To create the array, the researchers used electron beam dissipation in each pixel, thereby refining the color hue and polarizing light. This will also lead to new displays that won’t color fade over time when exposed to sunlight (could using my phone in direct sunlight finally be a possibility?).


Combined with other light sensing technology and we could see (or rather Not see) combat uniforms, tanks and even planes become invisible on the battlefield sometime in the ‘distant future’. Notice that last remark, the discovery is just one-step at developing the technology to become invisible, as more development is needed before that actually happens. Still, the research suggests that having the ultimate light-changing camouflage isn’t out of the realm of possibility. Considering the research was funded in part by the Department of Defense, chances are good that it will come to fruition but we may never ‘see’ what’s become of it!


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These hair-like structures bend when exposed to a magnetic field allowing water to defy gravity (via MIT)


MIT engineers have designed some interesting materials that include a graphite-based foam that converts solar energy into steam and a self-assembling material that can be used for flat semiconductors. Adding to that list is a new elastic material that is coated with microscopic hair-like structures that bend when exposed to a magnetic field.


As strange as it sounds, this allows the material to form channels that would permit water to travel upwards against gravity. The funny thing is, the material wasn’t back-engineered from alien technology or found inside of a meteorite but rather from simple silicon and nickel. The metal hairs are roughly 70-microns tall, 25-microns wide and were fabricated on an elastic transparent layer of silicone. When a magnetic field was applied, the engineers found they could make liquid travel in any direction they wanted depending on the field’s orientation.


Not only that, they also found they could direct the flow of light, much like window blinds. This new material could be applied to vehicle windshields and building windows to manipulate rain and sunlight. Water would bead off to the windows edges and darken depending on the amount of sunlight. It could even be woven into fabric for a type of smart-clothing that would literally wick away moisture (rainproof business suit?).


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Right side up, upside down makes no difference when utilizing the USB Type-C cable (via USB.org)

Most all of our devices have a USB (Universal Serial Bus) port of some type in order to be recharged and sync data with other devices. There are several different USB 3.1 types that are currently on the market that were set by the USB Standards for use with our devices, including Type-A (pictured above), Type-B (the box-like connector), Micro (smartphones/tablets) and Mini (GPS, external hard drives, etc.). Each has a different form factor, which limits universal connectivity, making our lives that much harder.


Those days will soon be over as the USB Standards have recently announced the upcoming release of USB Type-C, which is the same size of Micro USB but has the same potential power and data speed of Type-A. Actually, the connecter doesn’t have an orientation parameter, meaning users can plug it in upside down or upside right without damaging their devices. The power and data spec has been doubled from USB 3.0’s 5Gb-per second to 10Gb-per second speeds and can handle 5-amps and up to 100-watts of power. Manufacturers can now implement the new standard into their next-gen devices, so we can expect the new connection sometime in the near future.


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Engineering students Laura Hodges and Fred Westling test drive robotic couch (via UNSW)

 

If you belong to the group of folks whose couch is indented with butt prints from prolonged hours of gaming and TV-watching, you're in for a treat. Now you can direct your magic couch to take you everywhere you want to go. No, this isn't a dream, although you may dream of this lovely little loveseat for other reasons...

 

The couch was created by a team of engineering students from the University of New South Wales in Australia who wondered what life would be like if they could go from dorm to class, without getting up from the couch. It began as a joke, but university professors caught wind of the idea and encouraged the youngsters to figure it out, believing the project would be great experience for the students. It took a team of nine students a full year to complete the project, but it's finally done, and this robocouch can go the distance.  

 

The couch is built on a standard wooden base that hides a custom steel chassis and four individually-controlled mecanum wheels. The wheels are powered by electric scooter motors and controlled by a single controller that enables omnidirectional movement. The robotic couch is also powered by Raspberry Pi and takes orders via X-Box controller.

 

The design team is still improving the robocouch, but for now it's fully functional and was showcased at the University's Open Day last week. Upcoming improvements include enhancing the couch's coordination, as it falters on uneven terrain or with uneven weight distribution.

 

Overall, the project is a way for engineering students to gain real-life skills. The group of students, led by Steph McArthur and Will Andrew, came up with a concept, figured out how to build it and then got to enjoy the fruits of their labor. If that doesn't make them fall in love with the wonderful world of making, nothing will. And they're in love. The team is already brainstorming for their next project. In 2015 we may see a fridge that comes to you. Only college kids would go through the all of the work to figure that out. Nonetheless, it's still pretty sweet. Makers, unite!

 

 

 

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Strike a pose! MIT is developing software for Boston Dynamic’s DARPA-funded robot. Put a human inside the Atlas frame somehow, bam, Iron Man. (via MIT)


Boston Dynamics’ Atlas robot has been around only for about a year or so and has been making great strides (literally). The bi-pedal robot is actually the product of several companies, Sandia National Laboratories designed one of the robot’s hands while iRobot designed the other, while Team MIT provides the code to get it to function correctly and for its future roll in hazardous environments. Based on DARPA’s earlier PETMAN robot, the 6-foot tall 330Lbs.

 

Atlas features four independent hydraulically actuated limbs, which possess a total of 28-degrees of freedom. Its head is outfitted with a laser range finder and a pair of stereo cameras that are controlled by an onboard PC, which it uses to navigate rough terrain and even climb stairs. MIT has been working with the Atlas since the beginning of DARPA’s Robotics Challenge in 2012 to develop semi-autonomous ground robots that can perform complex tasks in dangerous areas (AKA: battlefields,etc).

 

The challenge comprises three phases, with the first being the Virtual Robotics Challenge, which pit teams against each other using virtual robots that had to function using their individual software platforms. MIT placed third out of nine for that heat (Institute for Human and Machine Cognition placed first), which is still respectable. Next came the DRC Trials (held December 13 of last year) that put the team’s robots through an obstacle course to perform a series of physical tasks to test mobility, dexterity and manipulation (among a host of others). MIT placed fourth in that heat, which considering such a short time period for development is still commendable (SCHAFT placed first).

 

So, where does that leave MIT now in the great DRC? Sadly, it doesn’t look good, taking the fourth spot with a total of 16 points out of a possible 32. Points are given for completing each task, which are worth a single point. Team MIT will have to ramp up their skills to come in first for the last leg of the Challenge (Finals) set for June of 2015. They have already gotten the robot to balance on one leg and even be hit by projectiles while doing so. As it stands at this point, the Team is refining their software to make the robot faster and more autonomous, while being able to visualize objects in its path and move them out of the way. Not an easy task. It’s capable of identifying different sized objects and drags them out of the way with relative ease. Think about it, this means that with the included ability to maintain balance, the robot can carry different weighted objects in each arm without barreling over.

 

Carrying a human in one while holding a protective shield in the other to keep them safe on the battlefield would be no problem for the Atlas. It will be interesting to see how Team MIT and the Atlas perform in the next leg of the competition and how the robot will evolve.


 

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James Hobson demonstrating his super strength fortified by his DIY exoskeloton. Looks like he's about to blow an o-ring too. (via the Hacksmith)


Alright folks, do you know what time it is? It's time to geek out! As part of a collection of DIY projects in a series titled “Make it Real,” The Hackman (aka James Hobson) and a group of mad scientists at Rimstar have collaborated to make a 'real' Elysium Exoskeleton. Why let all the fictional superheros have all the fun when anyone with enough money and time could become the next Iron Man? Well. in a more technologically advanced society perhaps.

 

For now, I guess we'll have to settle for inventions like these which only serve the purpose of feeding fantastical dreams of becoming Batman or Iron Man one day. Hey, why not? This Exoskeleton allows The Hackman to curl 170 lbs of concrete and steel. While at the same time, destroying his back. To be honest, however, The Hackman looks like he benches more than 170 lbs on a regular basis. This is still an impressive DIY project. I mean, it does actually work, which is half the battle.

 

The design of this Exoskeleton is quite simple. It is mostly just rigging which is worn like a backpack. The most important technology is in the robotic arms that are pneumatic cylinders which use an air compressor to give you the gusto to lift 170 lbs. The higher the air compression, the more you can lift using the exoskeleton, in theory.

 

In practice, I see The Hackman needing a chiropractor in the near future. Watch the video demonstration to see why. While the Exoskeleton serves its purpose, you actually need to be able to dead-lift 170 lbs and protect your back in the process. This doesn't seem to be easy since the exoskeleton doesn't seem to offer the mobility necessary to get a good stance. Plus, you probably just shouldn't curl that much weight, ever.

 

Nonetheless, The Hackman and Hack-A-Day seem really excited about this and you can visit their websites for YouTube videos on how to become a superhero by creating your own Exoskeleton. I'm sure this group will continue to “Make it Real” with more superhero paraphernalia to come.


 


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Pepper, the first humanoid robot with emotions, at a press conference in Tokyo. (via Softbank)


Holy moly! Your next hospital nurse could be a robot! Masayoshi Son, the CEO of SoftBank, has announced the first humanoid robot with an emotional engine intended for personal use.  At a press conference in Tokyo, Pepper introduced itself to the public speaking Japanese and mimicking Japanese gestures.

 

Pepper is 4-feet tall and has fully functional, life-like arms and fingers. It also has a tablet on its chest which works as a display. It can also move its chest, head, and eyes in a lifelike manner; following you with its eyes and peering up at you when you talk to it. It is not a bipedal robot, so it just has a stylistic podium for legs with wheels on the bottom. Nonetheless, it seems pretty impressive.

 

The robot is supposed to have a separate, emotional AI cloud drive that allows it to perceive and learn emotions and natural human behavior (hopefully it isn't capturing footage of you while you sleep and uploading it somewhere). Right now, one of SoftBank's stores in Omotesando (a tree-lined avenue located in the Shibuya and Minato sections of Tokyo) has a few Pepper robots 'staffing' the store. However, Verge writer Sam Byford notes that the Pepper robots are just for show at the moment and need much improvement on the AI cloud capability. The robots seem to have tons of preprogrammed sales lines, as they try to shift stock in the store and dazzles spectators with its library of songs and dances created by Yoshimoto Kogyo.

 

The AI component is hoping to improve onthefly, once Pepper because a part of Japanese families and has a chance to learn from humans and share that knowledge via the AI cloud with other Pepper robots. Pepper is supposed to be able to help with babysitting and staffing stores, and Softbank eventually wants to make robots that care for the sick and the elderly.

 

Pepper will be released for sale in February 2015 and will cost around $1930 for the base unit. What is the base unit? Well... nobody really knows but hopefully it is comprised of a fully functional robot. While Pepper is not perfect, it marks a leap forward in robotics. Perhaps in the next 5 years everyone will own a robot butler.

 

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