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Home News Robots Everywhere: Robots and the animal kingdom

Robots Everywhere: Robots and the animal kingdom

Welcome to another edition of Robots Everywhere, a show where we chronicle the slow but steady takeover of our future robot overlords, and show how they’re making their way into practically every facet of modern life. On this episode, we take a look at robots modeled after the animal kingdom, from machines that mimic the look and feel of our companion pets, to the robots that are inspired by specific parts of animals.

The German company Festo is a leading creator of robots that are inspired by specific parts of animals. For example, the company’s “bionic handling assistant” is a robot arm modeled after an elephant’s trunk, which gets rid of the hard, elbow-style joints you see on most other robotic arms. This gives a far greater range of flexibility and dexterity than most other gripping robot arms. In fact, it worked so well, the company also styled a robot arm that used suction cups much like an octopus arm to create a soft tentacle to grip objects. And the FlexShapeGripper mimics the grabbing action of a chameleon’s tongue, which can grab a huge range of objects, regardless of how they’re shaped.

Moving into robots that are designed to re-create actual animals, Sony has developed Aibo, a robotic dog that won’t poop, chew on your shoes, or make a mess of the house. There’s also Tombot, which is designed to act as a companion for the elderly. In fact, there’s an entire range of companion animals you can now choose from — from dogs to cats to seals.

There are also robots that are animatronic re-creations of real animals. These are used in movies, TV shows, theme parks, and even as research tools in the wild. Scientists have been able to use robot gorillas, dogs, and tortoises to study animals in their own environment and get close-up footage of animals in the wild.

Finally we have robots that are based on animals, but not meant to fully look like the animals they’re based on, such as the famous dog-like Spot robot from Boston Dynamics, which can do everything from walking down stairs to dancing to Bruno Mars. This category of animal robot also includes MIT’s cheetah bot, an ostrich-like walker robot from Agility Robotics, and an amazing kangaroo robot from Festo.

While the robotic animal kingdom isn’t quite as diverse as the real animal kingdom, utilizing the looks and movements of the animal kingdom has spurred some major and exciting advances in robotics, and will continue to do so into the future.

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The best of CES 2021

CES 2021 has come and gone yet again, leaving us with a whole array of new and exciting things to look forward to over the next year. And even though things were held in a virtual setting this year, we still had plenty to consider.Between press releases, online presentations, chats, emails, and other means, we discovered and read about a lot. While we were not able to cover everything we wanted — we never can, really — there were a few things that rose to the top.What follows are some of the most exciting, innovative, and interesting things announced during the CES 2021 period. We can’t wait to get our hands on these products and look forward to seeing them in the real world.Acer Chromebook Spin 514Why are we so excited about this one? For starters, it’s the first Acer Chromebook to employ the new AMD Ryzen 3000-C mobile processor. Hell, it’s one of the first devices to market with the new chip, which just so happened to be designed with Google’s help.Chromebooks have evolved from the low-cost, no-frills browser-based products into something considerably more robust and glamorous. The internet and cloud capabilities are getting more optimized and powerful and Chromebooks are growing more serious with each generation.In terms of features, the new 14-inch Chromebook offers up two USB Type-C ports, both of which support DisplayPort over USB-C and USB charging. Toss in two USB 3.2 Gen 1 ports, a MicroSD card reader, and an HDMI and you’ve got damn near standard laptop connectivity.We love the go-anywhere build quality that utilizes a reinforced metal chassis and military-grade durability because, let’s face it, we’re rough with our stuff.V-Moda M-200 ANCThe V-Moda brand is one we’ve loved watching evolve over the years. Its headphones continually impress and deliver some of the best audio around. The premium brand is back for 2021 with a refreshed approach to its M-200 that incorporates active noise cancelling.V-Moda M-200 ANC (Via V-Moda)At one time it may have seemed unreasonable to consider dropping a few hundred bucks on headphones. But, spend some time with cans like these, and you’ll understand that “you get what you pay for” happens to be true once in a while.Not only does V-Moda make some of the most stylish and visually distinct headphones around, but you can customize the shells with multiple colors and logos. The M-200 ANC provide up to 20 hours of wireless playback with ANC enabled; just 10 minutes on the charger adds up to 90 minutes of playback. That’s a ton of time spent listening for very little time on the charger.Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2We loved it last year when Samsung released its first-generation Galaxy Chromebook because it signaled the arrival of premium Chromebooks — that were not from Google. Our biggest hang-up was the price as it was nearly $1,000 for the device.Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2 (via Samsung)Samsung’s back with a new version of the Galaxy Chromebook that comes in around half the price. What’s the trade-off? Samsung swapped out the 4K OLED display in favor of a 1920 x 1080 pixel QLED display.Offered in Fiesta Red and Mercury Gray colors, the thin (13.9mm) Chromebook packs at least 4GB RAM with a minimum of 64GB storage. There’s a lot to love about this one, including Wi-Fi 6 (Gig+), 802.11 ax 2×2, Bluetooth 5.0, microSD, and a pair of USB-C ports.Philips Hue Wall Switch ModulePhilips Hue Wall Switch Module (via Philips Hue)Smart lights are awesome, but they’re not always easy to work with. Sure, there’s voice and apps, and automation, but that stuff only works when their powered on. If you’ve ever had smart lights in place, you know how aggravating it is when someone comes by and physically turns them off, disabling all smart functions.This new Wall Switch Module addresses these sort of issues by turning your standard light switch into a smart one that controls Philips Hue smart lights. For one, it keeps you from physically flicking the switch off and messing with routines or settings.With a battery life of at least five years, the module can connect to a Hue Bridge and also set up for multiple light scenes.Airpop Active+ Filter MaskThe first smart air wearable, this is a washable mask with replaceable filters and a sensor. Designed to block 99% of particulate matter, including dust, allergens, and microbial particles, it’s built using a medical-grade soft touch membrane with a 360 degree seal.Airpop Active+ Smart Air Wearable (via Airpop)A 3D dome structure not only makes for comfortable wearing, it helps keep the filter core off of your face. The app pulls in local air quality information so you can get a sense for the pollutants being blocked by the mask. What’s more, it can also track metrics like breaths per minute, breaths per pace, and other stats.Soundcore Liberty Air 2 ProThe Anker Soundcore brand has become synonymous with affordable quality and we’ve enjoyed watching it evolve and expand. Its newest model, the Liberty Air 2 Pro offer the familiar stick design of predecessors but come with a more polished and refined look — all without reaching deep into our wallet in the process.Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro (via Soundcore/Anker)Anker’s companion not only helps you get going with some tuning, but it offers up 22 sound profiles and adjustable EQ. Play around with it and you’ll surely find the right modes for your favorite music, regardless of genre.We also really like the multiple modes for Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) and the two options transparency, one of which allows for better pickup of voice. Rounding things out are six microphones, numerous silicone tips, and an IPX4 rating against water or sweat. And thanks to the 26 hour playtime from the earbuds and case, we can go all week without touching a charger.Roborock S7 Robot VacuumYou may not realize it until you own one, but the robot vacuum space is a pretty cool one — and it changes more often than you’d imagine. Roborock, a player who has really started making some inroads, is back with its S7 for 2021.Roborock S7 (via Roborock)New for this year’s model is the ability to automatically switch from vacuum to mopping modes. That studio apartment you’ve got with hard floors and throw rugs? There’s nothing here that says you can’t clean the entire floor at once. The unit can intuit surfaces and raise itself up for rugs or vice versa.The new sonic vibration technology means the S7 will really loosen dirt and debris instead of simply giving them an underpowered wipe. Speaking of power, the battery should yield up to three hours of continuous clean when running on quiet mode.Roborock S7 has a companion app which gives users the ability to customize cleaning schedules and adjust preferences. It also features a real-time indication of the robot’s route and mapping history.Honor Band 6The last few years we’ve seen fitness and activity trackers slowly morph into smartwatches. As each generation tacks on a new feature or function, wearables become more helpful and interesting — but they typically don’t get cheaper. Moreover, they look more like traditional watches than ever before.Honor Band 6 (via Honor/Huawei)The Honor Band 6, priced just $35, keeps things minimal in design but deliver maximum features. Sporting a 1.47-inch display and a modern aesthetic, it provides 10-14 days of usage.What does it track? Oh let’s see… let’s just say everything important. We’re talking blood oxygen, heart rate, stress, menstrual cycles, and a whole array of sports modes and activities. And thanks to its 5 ATM water-resistance, you can wear it in the pool, too.

The best cases for your Google Pixel 5

The Google Pixel 5 is a terrific option for consumers seeking a high value proposition smartphone. It’s a great “bang for your buck” experience that runs the latest and greatest in Android and which features a stellar point and shoot auto camera experience. Toss in 5G connectivity and a suite of upper-end hardware, and you’re looking at one of our favorite devices.For all the good that the phone is, none of it matters if the phone doesn’t work. To that end, you want to keep your beloved handset protected. If you need to pick up a new protective case for the Google Pixel 5, these are some of the best you’ll find.Blu Element Armour 2XDesigned with drops in mind, this sleek case is constructed from two layers of shock-absorbing materials. Toss in a durable outer layer that’s scratch-proof and protective silver chrome buttons and it’s more stylish than others in its class. As low as $30.Speck Presidio ExoTechConstructed from a single layer of soft-touch material, this case is designed to meet military specifications for drops. Bolstered by a lifetime warranty, it also has Microban antimicrobial protection against bacteria. As low as $30.Noreve Leather CaseLeave the wallet behind as this case provides spaces for credit cards or business cards. The protective leather wallet guards against scratches, dirt, dust, and even drops. It’s thin and light, yet professional looking and sturdy. Offered in a range of color options, you can customize yours with multiple options, including engraved logos. As low as $80.BodyGuardz CarveYou picked out a pretty sharp looking phone, so why hide it under something boring? Let the color shine through and rest easy knowing you’ll be okay with drops or scuffs. The reinforced edges don’t add any extra thickness and we appreciate that. As low as $30.Incipio GripHaving a phone case that handles drops is nice, but we don’t really want to worry about that do we? This case has multidirectional grip along the edges so your handset doesn’t go tumbling out of hand. But, unless it’s falling more than 14 feet you shouldn’t stress. Oh, and there’s a lifetime guarantee behind it all. As low as $40.Case-Mate Twinkle OmbreWhile most phone cases completely obscure the color of your handset, this one has an ombre or gradient effect that shines and catches the eye. The reflect glitter bounces in the light and sparkles at every angle. As low as $40.Caseology LegionThe flexible TPU case is strong enough to absorb shock and drops and the outer shell is designed to withstand scratches and scrapes. Thinner than it sounds, it allows for wireless charging and is backed by a lifetime warranty. As low as $30.Tech21 Evo ClearWhen showing off your phone’s finish and color is important, you turn to a clear case that won’t yellow over time. You get that here, plus a scratch-resistant finish that handles scratches and scuffs. On top of that, it will reduce microbes by up to 99%, something that’s all too helpful these days. As low as $40.Vena vCommuteA terrific option for those who wish to leave the wallet or clutch behind, this case has a hidden card slot for IDs, credit cards, or transit cards. Designed with drops in mind, it can take a tumble up to 26 times from four feet. The built-in metal flap works great with magnetic car mounts and can also double as a kickstand. As low as $50.Olixar ArmourDilloSturdy and stylish, the tough case reminds us of tire treads. That is to say it’s textured and easy to grip and that it takes dirt, dust, and debris in stride. The combination of inner TPU case and an outer impact-resistant exoskeleton helps this case punch above its weight class and price. Plus we dig that built-in kickstand which allows for watching of video on lunch breaks. As low as $13.