Sometimes something appears and you experience that “science fiction becoming everyday life” feeling. I track these, as they are fine signals of the future.
Here are two from this week.
First, from the realm of 3d printing, an octopus-thing has been printed into life! Harvard calls it an octobot, or “the first soft, autonomous robot.”
Harvard’s octobot is pneumatic-based, i.e., it is powered by gas under pressure. A reaction inside the bot transforms a small amount of liquid fuel (hydrogen peroxide) into a large amount of gas, which flows into the octobot’s arms and inflates them like a balloon.
There’s a video, of course, which can’t be embedded in WordPress, so use this link, or gaze upon a screengrab:
Popular Science thinks it’s still in early days:
The fuel, circuits, and motors are all printed within the octobot’s body. Right now, the autonomy consists of the machine deciding when to flex its little robot limbs. Future versions of the octobot man crawl, walk, and otherwise deliberately flop about like other soft robots, but for now, this little machine is a flailing start of an idea. An embryonic creation, it is the goopy seed of future designs, ones that will not only be autonomous, but will have something they can do with that autonomy.
The thing is a wireless VR headset without cables, without hand controllers, and perhaps most amazing, it recognizes your surroundings.
Packed with sensors, this all works thanks to Intel’s RealSense 3D cameras which are actually three cameras in one — a 1080p HD camera, an infrared camera, and an infrared laser projector. They “see” like the human eye to sense depth and track human motion. Combined with a VR headset, it opens the door to a much more natural, intuitive and immersive experience.
Check out this very ambitious video. It’s a bit like Star Trek’s holodeck, but deliberately merged into daily life, I think:
So far this is in the very early demo stages, and Digital Bodies says the hardware will only be shipped to developers in 2017. But recall what else DB says about every developer working like mad in this space, trying to achieve those goals.
(And, speaking of which, anyone interested in VR, AR, mobile, etc. needs to be tracking Digital Bodies. Maya and Emory are *the* experts on how this tech is shaping up for education. Stalk them, know them, and learn from their vision.)
Merged reality, printed octobots… week by week, 2016 is starting to seem a little more like the 21st century.