For Parents: Semi-autonomous robotic arms
Every mother and father longs for a second pair of hands, particularly when washing a slippery, wriggling newborn; Federico Parietti and Harry Asada of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have come up with the prototype that just might work: semi-autonomous robotic arms. Now, you might ask how these arms are different to other prosthetic limbs? These arms are designed to learn and anticipate what their wearer is doing, to the point they should be able to handle some tasks on their own; they are designed to augment the human body, rather than replacing lost limbs.
I don’t know about you, but I can think of lots of creative uses for a second pair of hands – every craft fanatic in the world can probably come up with a couple more. The main drawbacks would be :
1/ looking like Doctor Otto Octavius AKA Doctor Octopus;
2/ the arms developing a mind of their own;
3/ accidental injury (after all, mechanisms AND humans malfunction).
For Tinkerers: The Studley Tool Chest
The Studley tool chest was the masterpiece of the organ and piano-maker Henry Studley (1838-1925). He constructed his tool chest to hold over 300 of his tools in a space about one metre tall, half a metre wide and 23 centimetres deep when the case is shut. The chest is lovingly and meticulous constructed out of beautiful woods (mahogany, rosewood, walnut and ebony), and decorated with mother of pearl. However, it is the ingenious way the tools are jig-sawed and layered into the chest that makes this such an amazing artefact.
In my eye, it isn’t just the Gothic beauty of the tool chest that makes it so special. It was an actual workman’s tool chest, not an item of art, and so has a gravitas that a merely decorative item can never achieve. This sort of item should grace the laboratory of every mad scientist.
For Animal Lovers: The Pets without Poop
The science of Robotics has come a long, long way since Isaac Asimov invented the term. Robotic pets have been around a while, but now the science has been raised into an art form by the toy industry.
You can have an exotic pet like a koala or seal pup without having to worry about permits and special food requirements. The robots’ synthetic fur is softer than the real thing, making for stroke-able pets with no claws or sharp teeth. The robotic pets are responsive to petting, and have animatronic movement and inbuilt sweet sound cards.
You might think giving little Timmy a new puppy for Christmas will teach Timmy about the responsibilities of looking after another creature. With luck, any enthusiasm for the new puppy might last until Timmy goes back to school. Now you have all the walking and feeding duties – and you might be cleaning up poop or rescuing chewed belongings. How much kinder and cleverer to an animal to let Timmy have a trial run with a robotic pet! A robotic pet that can’t hurt him if he is too rough, so that he can practice being gentle for when he does get a real puppy or kitten.
(One of the saddest times of the year is around February, when all the Christmas kittens and puppies are starting to grow into young animals and people dump them.)
Unfortunately, these gorgeous examples of Steampunk pens above are from last year.
I would argue that writing with a pen into a journal is the best way to get that authentic Victorian writing experience because, even though the typewriter was in existence during the Victorian era, it was mainly used in industry. And every writer, even those that are joined at the fingers to their computer, loves and cherishes a good pen.
Well, here we are again at the end of another year. As always, I wish you all a joyous holiday season no matter how you celebrate it, and please stay safe during the silly season.
Each month our very own Voyager Science Queen* will bring you interesting, quirky and downright bizarre tasty morsels from the world of science. And its all completely, totally, 100% true! *The Voyager Science Queen is also known as Lynne Lumsden Green- find out who she is in About Us!
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