Massive, hulking exoskeleton or mech suits are usually the type of thing one would encounter in a science fiction movie, whether it’s the low-budget classic Robot Jox or the American kaiju blockbuster Pacific Rim.
However, engineering firm Furrion Exo-Bionics has unleashed a colossal, four-legged, 9,000-pound powered exoskeleton dubbed Prosthesis – and anyone interested will be able to take up the controls and pilot the beast.
The company recently launched a wildly popular Kickstarter campaign laying out its mission, which is to start a “global racing league that would pit multiple world-class athletes in head-to-head competitions, through complex technical obstacle courses, wearing giant powered mech suits.”
And while the vision may seem larger-than-life, Furrion and its Prosthesis: Mech Racing research and development team are confident that they can unleash this new class of “large scale exo-bionic technology” and use it to power its global mech racing league.
Backers of the Kickstarter campaign will be eligible to receive “one-on-one mech pilot training” or kick back and watch the mechs kick each other’s butts at live events.
The company’s flagship mech, dubbed Prosthesis: the Anti-Robot, took over three years of field trials – including engineering and pilot training – to create this all-terrain mech suit that has four massive legs and the power to lift cars, run through the snow, and climb boulders.
“We ended up with four legs because the pilot has four limbs, and the machine has the wide stable form factor that it has so that it’s easy to balance,” chief test pilot and project co-founder Jonathan Tippett told CNET.
In a video kicking off the successful crowdfunding campaign, Tippett notes that the mech is “basically a cross between a trophy truck, an excavator, and a dinosaur.”
However, the idea behind Prosthesis isn’t simply passive entertainment – instead, this will require athleticism on the part of mech pilots who will be moving their arms and legs to get these massive machines going, making this a true sport rather than a simple robot exhibition.
“Prosthesis has no joysticks, no steering wheel, no foot pedals – just 100 percent limb-for-limb pilot control,” Furrion explained. “Prosthesis has no automation, no giros, no ability to walk or balance by itself, it relies entirely on the pilot inside for all its movement. Your arm and leg movements are amplified to control its four, giant steel legs, move for move. That’s what makes it a sport.”
Cassie Hawrysh, an accomplished headfirst ice sledding champion from Canada, is the first professional “mech sports” athlete to control the hulking quadrupedal beast. According to Furrion, she was just as surprised as the engineers when she felt a sense of familiarity between her 60-pound skeleton sled and the interface of this 9,000-pound mech suit.
“With the relentless and unchecked automation of everything we do, Prosthesis reminds us that some of the most rewarding things in life are those that require effort, focus and training,” the Kickstarter page said. “This is the very essence of sport. Prosthesis, and mech sports, are a celebration of the age old pursuit of physical mastery and human skill, now brought to a new level through advanced technology.”
Awesome New Infrared Goggles Could Help Blind People ‘See’ Surroundings
People who are blind or deal with low vision face a unique number of challenges in their daily lives, ranging from accessing published material to holding a job or living on one’s own.
However, emerging infrared technology under research could help the blind and visually impaired navigate the world around them using a pair of innovative goggles.
In new research recently published and yet to be peer-reviewed, Manuel Zahn and Armaghan Ahmad Khan at Germany’s Technical University of Munich explored how their 3D camera and haptic feedback armband can assist people with low vision.
“Even in the present era, visually impaired people face a constant challenge of navigation,” the pair wrote. “The most common tool available to them is the cane. Although the cane allows good detection of objects in the user’s immediate vicinity, it lacks the ability to detect obstacles further away.”
The two students’ design deploys two infrared cameras placed in a 3D-printed goggles prototype to get a stereoscopic view that is transformed by a small computer into a map of the user’s surroundings. The infrared gear also works in the dark. The armband then uses 25 actuators arranged in a grid that vibrates when users come close to objects while also assisting them in their orientation. As users walk near obstacles, the vibration intensity of the actuators increases.
In tests, subjects enjoyed roughly 98 percent accuracy while getting through obstacle pathways, with all five participants completing the course in their first run. After two additional runs, the volunteers were able to navigate the obstacles more rapidly.
Zahn and Khan frequently cited Microsoft’s Kinect motion detection system for the Xbox in their study, but the pair are confident that their own setup will be far smaller, cheaper and less conspicuous than the gaming device.
The new headset could offer an interesting opportunity for blind and partially sighted people to clear the myriad obstacles they face when performing regular tasks or navigating the world around them.
Toddler Goes On $2000 Furniture-Shopping Spree On Mom’s Phone
A New Jersey mom learned that keeping your browser open may not be the best idea as children, and even infants, become increasingly tech savvy.
Madhu Kumar was browsing Walmart’s furniture selection on their website and had added some items to her shopping cart but never checked out. She was shocked and confused when she started to receive a steady stream of packages from the big-box retailer.
Madhu immediately turned to her husband and two older children to find out who ordered the packages.
“I need one or two, why would we need four?” Madhu asked.
As it turned out, her toddler Ayaansh Kumar – who, at 22 months old, was barely learning to count – had gone on a $2,000 shopping spree while playing on his mother’s phone.
“It is really hard to believe that he has done this, but that’s what happened,” Ayaansh’s dad, Pramod Kumar, told NBC New York.
Among the packages were some that could barely be squeezed through the family’s front door at their home in Monmouth Junction.
Purchases included accent chairs, flower stands and a range of other household items that arrived throughout the week.
“He’s so little, he’s so cute, we were laughing that he ordered all this stuff,” his mom remarked.
From birth, young Ayaansh had observantly watched his family members engage in a range of activities from home – including shopping, attending classes, and going to school. And as it the case for many kids of his generation, he knows the basics of operating a smartphone.
The parents are still waiting for all of the boxes to arrive so that they can return them to their local Walmart. The retailer has already told the Kumars that they are eligible for a refund, but the parents plan to save at least a few items to remind them of their son’s first e-commerce adventure.
“Moving forward, we will put tough passcodes or face recognition so when he picks up the phone he finds it in locked condition,” his father said.
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