The robots are coming. You’ve likely heard or read this in any number of the countless pieces of media coverage on the newest cutting edge robots that are currently being developed. Advanced robotics have been part of many industries for years – in medicine assisting surgeries, in the military in the form of drones and bomb diffusers, in manufacturing and distribution and countless others. A new multimedia series from the New York Times highlights some of the incredible advances of the next generation of robotics.
One such incredible use of the developing technology is bionic limbs. A team of engineers from Johns Hopkins University are developing a robotic arm that is controlled by a person’s mind, contains 26 joints and can curl up to 45 pounds. By mapping the user’s nerves, the new arms are able to tap into the signals being sent, allowing a person to direct movement through thought. The technology is game changing, but faces a number of hurdles before it is widely available. The cost of the prosthetics is still far to high to make them viable beyond the lab, each one costs about $500,000. FDA regulations must also be met before the arms will be broadly available.
While the applications for the technology are vast, much of the actual engineering is the same whether being used to advance medical science or evolve military strategy. At the US Navy’s research facility in San Diego, a research and operations team is working to provide soldiers better visibility and access to the battlefield at a distance. The team is working on advancing autonomy in robots, which will allow one soldier or operator, to command a number of machines. The uses of these advances are only as limited as the imagination. To follow the rest of the Times series, visit their Robotica page on the Bits blog.