GOTTA HAVE HEART
A 15 year old Italian boy has become the first child patient in the
world to be permanently implanted with an artificial heart.
The boy — who has not been named — underwent a 10 hour
operation last week and at last report is still in intensive care but has
woken up following the surgery and is said to be well and talking.
As he already suffers from a muscle wasting illness called
Duchenne syndrome. he was ineligible to be placed on the heart
transplant waiting list.
The illness causes rapid muscle degeneration and the teenager had
been confined to bed and unable to walk, and was close to death when
surgeons decided to install the artificial heart.
Paediatric cardiac surgeon Dr Antonio Amodeo carried out the
operation with an eight-member strong team at the Bambino Gesu
Children's Hospital in Rome.
Isaac Asimov would probably be horrified at the experiments underway in a robotics
lab in Slovenia. There, a powerful robot has been hitting people over and over again in a
bid to induce anything from mild to unbearable pain — in apparent defiance of the first
law of robotics which states that "a robot may not injure a human being."
However, the robo-battering is all for a good cause, insists Borut Povše, who has
ethical approval for the work from the University of Ljubljana, where he conducted the
research. He has persuaded six male colleagues to let a powerful industrial robot
repeatedly strike them on the arm to assess human-robot pain thresholds.
It's not because he’s defying the first law of robotics. It’s to help future robots adhere
to the rule."Even robots designed to Asimov's laws can collide with people. We are trying
to make sure that when they do, the collision is not too powerful," Povše explains."We
are taking the first steps to defining the limits of the speed and acceleration of robots, and
the ideal size and shape of the tools they use, so they can safely interact with humans."
Povše and his colleagues borrowed a small production-line robot (made by Japanese
technology firm Epson) normally used for assembling systems such as coffee vending
machines. They programmed the robot arm to move towards a point in mid-air already
occupied by a volunteer's outstretched forearm, so the robot would push the human out
of the way. Each volunteer was struck 18 times at different impact energies with the robot
arm fitted with one of two tools: one blunt and round, and one sharper.
The volunteers were then asked to judge for each tool type whether the collision was painless or engendered mild,
moderate, horrible, or unbearable pain. Povše — who at least tried the system before his volunteers — said most judged the
pain was in the mild to moderate range.
TAKES THE CAKE
Yes, robots are taking our jobs, but it takes a truly evil mind to
design a robot to put grandmothers out of work. This robot cake
decorator works sort of like a Spirograph; the cake rotates in a circle
while an arm moves back and forth depositing frosting.A separate arm
drops those little silver balls that you always wonder whether or not
you’re really supposed to eat them. It was designed by Katherina Mischer
and Thomas Traxler.
26 SERVO 12.2010