Sunday, October 7, 2007

Sunday's Globe column: Dean Kamen is out to reinvent the prosthetic arm

Today's Globe column focuses on the next-gen prosthetic arm being developed by DEKA Research and Development, Dean Kamen's skunkworks, up in Manchester, NH. It's being funded by DARPA, the nice folks who brought you the Internet.

From the piece:

    When Kamen, one of America's best-known inventors, first spoke with officers at the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, they told him they were looking for a research and development group that could build a prototype of a new prosthetic arm. Kamen was expecting to hear a list of technical specifications, such as how much the arm would need to lift and how many moving joints it would require. Instead, Kamen says, the Pentagon officials told him they wanted to create an arm that could "pick up a raisin or a grape from a table, know the difference without looking at it, and be able to manipulate it into the person's mouth without breaking it or dropping it."

Here's the video, which includes Kamen's perspective on the project, as well as a lot of demo footage.

DEKA also is working on another DARPA project, which we didn't talk about when I was there in late September: a project called PowerSwim, the goal of which is to increase the speed and efficiency of human swimmers (ummm, Navy SEALs, perhaps?) by about 50 percent. More on that here and here.

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Saturday, August 4, 2007

Robo-Dog Fetches $10 Million in Funding

Boston Dynamics is getting $10 million from DARPA to continue development of BigDog, a robotic dog that may eventually be able to carry equipment for soldiers or run ahead to survey an area (but not fetch a paper, since the robo-dog has no head or jaws.) So far, according to Boston Dynamics, "BigDog has trotted at 3.3 mph, climbed a 35 degree slope and carried a 120 lb load." (In 2004, I wrote about BigDog, along with other robots based on animal models, for the NY Times.)

Here's a video clip of BigDog in action...unbelievably cool when someone tries to knock it over and it regains its footing without falling.

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