Joanne Pransky was at the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions' (IAAPA) annual trade show in Orlando in November, pitching park operators and editors alike on the cool features of Robocoaster, one of the industry's newest and most novel rides. "It kind of reminds me of Faye Wray in King Kong's hand," she said. That was an apt description of the servo motor-controlled ride. Because it relies on no defined path or track, engineers are able to thrill riders with a series of loop-the-loops, double-back somersaults, figure eights, and other unpredictable motions more closely resembling that of a Hollywood animatronic than a conventional amusement park ride. A consultant, humorist, and self-proclaimed "Robo-psychologist," Pransky herself is a well-known personality in the robotics world, partly because of her quirky personality and mostly because of her passionate desire to bring robots to the masses—or rather prepare them for it. "Industrial robots are in wide use, and most engineers understand the underlying technology. But your average person on the street hasn't had much opportunity to interact with robots, outside of what they've seen on TV," says Pransky, who just bought a Rhoomba robotic vacuum cleaner to clean her 1,700 sq-ft house. To get the word out, she does marketing and public relations work for robotics companies, did a stint as a commentator on Comedy Central's Battlebots show, runs a website (www.robot.md) about robotics, and performs the occasional publicity stunt. One of her latest stunts: Entering her AIBO robot in a dog show in Florida. Next up: Getting robots on late-night television, a mission Asimov himself certainly would have appreciated.
The Beam Store from Suitable Technologies is managed by remote workers from places as diverse as New York and Sydney, Australia. Employees attend to store visitors through Beam Smart Presence Systems (SPSs) from the company. The systems combine mobility and video conferencing and allow people to communicate directly from a remote location via a screen as well as move around as if they are actually in the room.
An MIT research team has invented what they see as a solution to the need for biodegradable 3D-printable materials made from something besides petroleum-based sources: a water-based robotic additive extrusion method that makes objects from biodegradable hydrogel composites.
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