With (retro) futuristic devices such as jetpacks, hoverbikes, and giant lasers around, it's getting harder to argue that we're not living in The Future. Or at least a somewhat sci-fi vision of the future from 20 years ago.
And there's no greater evidence of this than sifting through hundreds of YouTube clips of robots. Consider this something of a "Greatest Hits" of the robot-video genre.
This robot bird designed by a company called Festo is the most recent robot that's blown my mind. They've actually managed to artificially reproduce the flight of a bird, something mankind has been trying to acheive for thousands of years. Certainly since Da Vinci, and prior to him the ancient Greeks and Chinese.
The same company, which specialises in bio-mimicry, has also designed a robotic "elephant trunk".
Robotic elephant trunk
( Dr Octopus anyone?)
Back in the olden days when I used to be a scientist, one of the concepts in biology, chemistry, and physics that most intrigued me was self-organisation theory, where a number of small parts with a few simple rules interact together to create complex behaviours or structures. These 'kilobots' (killbots?!) built by Harvard mimic the collective behaviour of ant and bee foraging.
Oh, and they only cost 14 bucks each.
Something of a classic - this video was popular a few years ago, but still presents a stunning picture of what's possible using robotics. Designed for the US military, the robot is intended to carry supplies in rough terrain where other vehicles are unable to go.
While amazing, in practice it reminds me of the (untrue) story about the US vs Russian space race. From snopes.com:
During the space race back in the 1960's, NASA was faced with a major problem. The astronaut needed a pen that would write in the vacuum of space. NASA went to work. At a cost of $1.5 million they developed the "Astronaut Pen". Some of you may remember. It enjoyed minor success on the commercial market.
The Russians were faced with the same dilemma.
They used a pencil.
You might well say the same thing about the Big Dog robot - why not just use a donkey?
It's a robotic Astronaut. Need I say more?
Probably the first domestic, commercially successful robot out there. The Roomba replaces vacuum cleaners, and provides an entertaining place for small cats to sleep.
Tmusk T-53 Rescue Bot
This Japanese-designed, remote-controlled rescue bot will immediately delight any fans of the Giant Robot strain of cartoons or anime - it's not far off from a Gundam or Evangelion. Also, it's strong enough to rip off car doors.
Designed by Sony to be commercialised in a similar fashion to their AIBO robot dog, the QRIO never made it to commercial production. It did however make it into this video clip by Beck.
And while I could spend all day writing about robots, I'll leave you with one of the more pointless and amusing ones: