Crypto-Currency Crash Course: 4 Things You Need to Know About Digital Money

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Money is becoming less and less physical. Currency once took the form of goods and services rendered. It moved on to the exchange of precious metals like gold and silver, and today it is all about greenbacks and plastic. The next step in money’s evolution is purely digital.

If you are a crypto-currency newbie, there are some things you need to know about this form of money, including its history, its uses, and its potential pitfalls.

History

Bitcoin, the most prominent form of digital currency, stepped onto the scene in 2009. Its anonymous creator went by the name Satoshi Nakamoto.

One of the first Bitcoin transactions happened in 2009 when a programmer sent 10,000 bitcoins to a volunteer who then ordered pizza using the bitcoins. The value of bitcoins varies, but one estimate says that today 10,000 bitcoins are worth about $750,000.

How it Works

Crypto-currency is a decentralized monetary system that does not rely on banks. Computers “mine” bitcoins by solving complex mathematical problems, and as more bitcoins come into existence, production slows to protect the value of the currency. Bruce Wagner, who organized a meet up of Bitcoin developers in New York, told Forbes, “No banker can control it. No evil dictator tyrant can print zillions and destroy the value.”

Many online casinos accept altcoins, but they are not the only businesses to do so. Even some brick and mortar stores accept digital money. In fact, the California House recently passed a bill recognizing crypto-currency as legal tender.

Bitcoin Isn’t Everything

Image via Flickr by Jonathan Waller

Bitcoin is the hottest buzzword in the world of crypto-currency, but it isn’t the only altcoin with potential. Other popular crypto-currencies include Litecoin, Peercoin, Namecoin, Primecoin, and Ripple. Most crypto-currencies work in a fashion similar to Bitcoin.

Ripple, however, works differently. Motherboard.vice.com explains, “Ripple is composed of three main parts: a payment network, a distributed exchange, and its own Bitcoin-like currency.” A large part of its appeal is that it allows for quick sending and receiving of money regardless of a user’s financial institution.

The CEO of a popular messaging app, quoted on CNBC.com, commented that crypto-currency is “a wide open area that we are going to see tons of innovation over the next ten years. And it’s hard to say right now who will shake out on top.”

Drawbacks

In theory, digital currency is a good idea, but there are dangers involved, such as wildly fluctuating coin values. A recent incident involving Bitcoin well illustrates another potential hazard to using digital money. Bitcoin exchanges allow people to buy and sell Bitcoins for traditional forms of money. One of the most exchanges, Mt. Gox, abruptly went offline because hackers got into the system.

Mt. Gox was not a bank, so there was no FDIC or other force to ensure that Mt. Gox customers got their money back. The fiasco resulted in Mt. Gox customers losing a total of over $400 million and wondering if they would ever receive compensation.

Crypto-currency is still in its infancy, but it is not going to disappear anytime soon. Staying informed about developments in the field can equip you to make good decisions with your money, whether it’s paper, plastic, or digital.

 

Cortana vs. Siri: Which is the Best Digital Personal Assistant?

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While she can’t necessarily hack the covenant battlenet, Microsoft’s new digital assistant Cortana has already proven herself as quite valuable to windows phone users. Named after a popular character from the Halo franchise, Cortana is entering the market to give Apple’s Siri a run for her money. Cortana isn’t as established or cheeky as Siri, but her innovations will bring exciting new options for mobile phone users. Today we’ll be examining some of the features of each digital assistant, and give you some insight into which might be right for you.

Image via Flickr by Janitors

Personalizing Your Phone

Personalization is what Cortana is all about, and from the first time you launch her on your phone, getting to know you is her goal. Once launched, Cortana asks you questions about your interests and uses that information to build a profile of you to better anticipate your requests or queries. Another plus, Cortana offers people-based reminders, allowing you to set important reminders about your friends and family when you ask to call them. This is a nice expansion upon the ability to set location-based reminders, something that Siri has had as an option for users for years.

Integration of 3rd Party Apps

Cortana is still very much the newcomer of the digital assistant world, and as such is still considered by Microsoft to be in the Beta stage. With this in mind, Siri currently has the clear advantage in regard to years of experience when it comes to third-party app integration. Despite all of Microsoft’s boasts about Cortana, at the end of the day Siri can tweet while Cortana cannot. Twitter may not be the most important part of your life (and hopefully isn’t), but the lack of current support for popular third-party apps clearly gives a black eye to Microsoft’s new star right off the bat.

Following Up

Perhaps the most exciting new feature that Cortana brings to the digital assistant field is her ability to understand questions in context. Siri tends to treat every question as a new request, while Cortana remembers your questions and relates them to future ones. Cortana even can push the results from a web search over into some of your phone’s apps, such as the Bing health tracker. This seemingly small improvement is a huge victory for Cortana over Siri, as it allows follow-up searches to be much more user-friendly and gives Cortana a definite advantage in this field.

Microsoft’s Cortana is definitely set to give windows phones a great set of new options in the near future. Siri has certainly been around for long enough to establish herself as Queen of the digital assistants, but Cortana’s additional features seem poised to represent a new challenge to the throne. Given that so few people currently take full advantage of their digital assistants, it remains to be seen whether or not Cortana can become the game changer that Microsoft needs to truly contend with Apple’s grip over the smartphone market. Time will tell though, and it will likely bring many exciting new upgrades to both sides of the smartphone aisle!

 

Building Us Better: 4 Innovations in Artificial Limbs

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When accidents happen and people lose limbs, there’s still hope that they can regain function because of prosthetics. Yes, a lot depends on the severity of the missing limb, but the technology is there to help people walk, pick up objects, and do much more. Take a look at these four innovations in artificial limbs and how they give amputees function back to their bodies.

Prosthetics that Resemble Real Body Parts

Iamge via Flickr by MilitaryHealth

Prosthetic hands no longer feature a hook with two fingers, or some other simple configuration. Now, they closely resemble their human counterparts with five fingers and the same mobility or better. Prosthetic feet also resemble human feet and users are able to wear shoes on them. Additionally, some artificial limbs even have skin to make them less of a distraction in public.

The most advanced prosthetics available in 2014 are called, “bionics.” Bionic limbs are developed around the world, but the Advanced Arm Dynamics clinic in Portland, Oregon, is one of the leaders. According to Digital Trends, fewer than 50 people in the United States have bionic hands with advanced i-Limb technology because they are so new. Bionic hands are not just for aesthetics; they are amazing machines that are paving the way in prosthetics.

Prosthetics with Built-in Pressure Sensors

Prosthetics are great because they give function back to amputees. Up until recently, however, these prosthetics did not have the same feel as real body parts. For instance, an amputee with a prosthetic hand had to look at an object to know where it was and pick it up. However, National Geographic reports that the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago has conquered this barrier by putting pressure sensors in prosthetics for sensory feedback. This helps amputees with prosthetics feel objects without seeing them. Pressure sensors are used in all sorts of prosthetics, not just hands.

Prosthetics with Personality and Style

The main purpose of prosthetics is to restore amputees with the ability to walk or pick up objects. However, designers at the Alternative Limb Project are pushing the boundaries and giving amputees all sorts of other cool abilities, such as tentacle arms and mermaid tails. In the future, it really might be possible to get an extra arm or leg to help you be more efficient at daily tasks. Of course, eyes in the back of your head are still a ways off.

Prosthetics That Are Controlled by the Mind

Amputees have different prosthetic options depending on the type of stump that is left on their limb. If the nerve endings are still receptive, sensors can be attached to control prosthetics through muscle contractions in the stump. Through microchips and sensors, bionic arms and legs are controlled straight by the brain through brain-machine interfaces (BMIs). Home trials are not available yet, but the technology for brain-operated prosthetics is only a few years away.

Technology saves lives and helps people live more normal lives. As technology continues to improve, amputees will experience a broader range of mobility and increased prosthetic options.

Building a Better Clock: The Adoption of the NIST-F2 Atomic Clock

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Why bother with an outdated atomic clock whose accuracy is limited to an embarrassing few tens of quadrillionths of a second when you could have the NIST-F2, the United States’ new atomic clock that is three times as accurate as its predecessors. Officially launched on April 3rd by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the NIST-F2 has been in the works for more than a decade. In 300 million years, the NIST-F2 will not lose or gain a single second. To add to its prestige, the clock was also recently named the most accurate time standard in the world by the International Bureau of Weights and Measures. Read on to learn how the clock works and what makes it superior to previous models.

What Makes Atomic Clocks Tick

Image via Flickr by Steven Depolo

The NIST-F2 and its predecessor are cesium-based atomic fountain clocks, which means they measure the vibration inside a cesium atom to determine the length of a second. Inside the clock, lasers force a ball of ten million cesium atoms together and cool them to help minimize noise. The ball is then passed through a microwave beam as it is pushed up a three-foot chamber. The beam jolts some of the atoms into a higher energy state in which they give off light.

The ball travels up and down the chamber multiple times, with the wavelength of the microwave beam changing a little each time. The purpose of this is for engineers to determine the correct frequency. At the right frequency, the atoms will emit the most light. This number, known as the natural resonance frequency of cesium, defines a second’s length in today’s world.

Why the NIST-F2 Is Superior

Although the NIST-F2 still uses the cesium-atom method, one major improvement sets it apart from previous models. The NIST-F1 runs at room temperature, which means the walls of the clock’s chamber get warm and thus emit a tiny amount of radiation. The radiation tampers with the atoms, resulting in a slight shift in their energy states. To correct this, engineers cooled the NIST-F2 with liquid nitrogen, causing it to operate at a temperature of -316 degrees.

The Implications of Accurate Time-Telling

You might be thinking, “We have a really, really accurate clock now.  So what?” Well, precise timekeeping is the keystone of a lot of modern technology. For example, GPS requires accurate time to a billionth of a second to navigate you correctly. GPS is also the basis of digital network synchronization, such as with cell phones and NTP servers that are the foundation of the Internet.

Next time you glance at your cell phone to check the time, know that it wouldn’t be possible without the precision of the NIST-F2 atomic clock. Your phone might not tell you the time to the sixteenth decimal like the NIST-F2, but it still very much relies on the standards of the NIST clocks. What’s exciting is that all the present applications of atomic clocks were not obvious when they first came about, so the future technology of more accurate timekeeping is anyone’s guess.

 

4 Ways Ambient Assisted Living Technologies are Changing Life for Seniors

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With an aging population comes increased motivation to progress technology to care for these individuals. Ambient assisted living technologies are those that show “ambient intelligence,” or that are sensitive and responsive in the presence of people. Read on to how these technologies are changing the lives of seniors.

1. They Make Seniors Feel Safer

In the presence of ambient technology, seniors tend to feel safer. Each year, one-third of elderly individuals ages 65 and older experience a fall. Furthermore, 29 percent of seniors live alone. Falling down when no one is around is a huge concern for seniors, but not as many have to worry about that anymore. In fact, they can live in peace knowing that someone will respond in any accident or emergency.

Mobile and wearable sensors can alert nearby medical professionals if a senior has experienced a fall or had a heart attack, effectively getting them help when needed — even if they can’t call for help themselves. Other sensors in the house will warn of any other dangers, such as intruders or fires, even when people aren’t home.

2. They Give Them More Independence

Image via Flickr by spader

Not only do ambient technologies allow seniors to feel safe enough to live on their own, but they can also boost their confidence in their ability to take care of themselves to the extent the technology allows. For instance, the elderly can take advantage of smart home technologies to keep them from worrying about simple — yet essential — tasks they may have trouble doing otherwise.

Things like getting up to control the temperature, remembering to lock the front door, and watering the lawn are no longer a big concern. Plus, voice-activated technologies allow low-mobility elderly to stay in their home while still being able to control their appliances and lighting.

3. They Help Them Learn About Technology

While many of today’s seniors aren’t well acquainted with the best technologies of the day, many are still interested in them. Keeping up with today’s technology trends can be tough when 80 percent of those older than 65 are suffering from a chronic disease or dealing with other long-term health issues. By integrating these technologies into seniors’ lives, it’s easier for them to learn about how technology is changing the world by getting to interact with it.

4. They Improve Quality of Life

In one study looking at how ambient technologies can impact the lives of dementia patients, researchers said that, “Particularly in dementia, [context-aware technologies] can aid in tasks that require learning and decision-making (two of the primary limitations characteristics of dementia).”

The researchers feel there is great promise for ambient assisted living technologies to help improve seniors’ quality of life, particularly those people suffering from dementia. This improved quality of life likely stems from the increased sense of security and more independence these technologies deliver.

As technology moves forward, we seeing more and more benefits with the potential to make a significant difference instead of simply playing around with it. Ambient technology is increasingly helping scores of elderly remain in their homes rather than live in nursing homes.

 

Five Technology Designs that Mimic Nature

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Biomimicry is the process of technologically simulating structures and systems found in the natural world. Scientists and engineers are interested in biomimicry because it often leads to innovations that help us live better and do more. Here are five examples:

The Shark-Skin Swimsuit

Speedo has a line of swimsuits called Fastskin that are made from super-stretch nylon and strategically covered with a texture that mimics the tiny teeth-like projections of a shark’s skin. Known as denticles, these projections cut the drag as the shark swims, allowing it to swim faster and use 10 percent less energy while doing so. Like a shark’s skin, the Fastskin suit sucks water closer into the swimmer’s body, reducing drag by 4 percent. During the 2004 Olympics, champion swimmer, Michael Phelps wore a Fastskin suit. He went on to win six gold and two bronze metals, becoming the first swimmer to do so in a single Olympics. Additionally, out of the 26 Olympic records broken during that year, 18 of them were by swimmers wearing this suit.

The Skinkansen Bullet Train

The designers of the Shinkansen Bullet Train modelled the train’s nose after the beak of the Kingfisher. The Kingfisher’s beak is streamlined, with an increasing diameter from the tip to where it meets the bird’s head. This shape allows the bird to move efficiently from the low resistance environment of the air into the higher resistance environment beneath the surface of the water as it hunts for food. The main issue facing the train’s designers was the loud noise that high-speed trains make when they exit underground tunnels into the open air. In mimicking the shape of the Kingfisher’s beak, the designers were able to reduce the train’s noise as well as make the train 10 percent faster while cutting its power usage by 15 percent.

The Dew Bank Bottle

The tiny Stenocara beetle of Namibia is the inspiration for a revolutionary water collection system that scientists hope will help countries in arid regions get the water they need. The bumps on the beetle’s back collect water from dew or fog. In addition, the little creature’s shell is coated in a waxy substance that channels the water into the beetle’s mouth. Taking note of this, Pak Kitae of the Seoul National University of Technology created the “Dew Bank Bottle.” Like the tiny insect, the bottle’s material encourages water to condense on its surface. The water is then repelled toward the bottle’s interior.

Termite-Inspired Climate Control

Termite dens are able to maintain a temperature of 87 degrees despite wide swings in the outside temperature, from 30 to 100 degrees in a single day, for example. The termites do this by building thick walls and encouraging air flow from holes near the bottom to those at the top. Architect Mick Pearce used the same concept for the design of the Eastgate Centre in Harare, Zimbabwe. Large chimneys encourage air flow via convection, wherein hotter air rises to the top and is replaced by cooler air from below. Thanks to this layout, the massive 333,000 square foot building uses 90 percent less energy for climate control.

Water Filtration Inspired by the Cell

Scientists have discovered proteins in the cells of animals that transport water across the cell membrane. These proteins are called aquaporins. Aquaporins are quite selective and are able to filter out unwanted particles to a degree that no human made water filter has been able to match. Inspired by biological aquaporins, scientists have developed a synthetic variety that, through reverse osmosis, can filter water with a similar degree of selectivity.

From shark-skin inspired swimsuits to better water filtration, biomimicry is helping humans live and work better. You can read about more biomimicry here and here.

 

 

Four Superhero Powers Achievable with Real World Technology

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Anyone who has ever read a comic book or seen a superhero movie has lived vicariously through the characters, imagining what it would be like to have those kind of powers. How unstoppable would you be if you had Wolverine’s regenerative healing power, the Hulk’s brute strength, Spiderman’s climbing ability, or Batman’s armor? You might think wishing for such powers is as much an exercise in futility as it is in fantasy. Surprisingly, though, the technology requisite for many of these superhero abilities already exists, including those listed below.

1. Super-Strength Suit

Image via Flickr by angeloangelo

Imagine having an exoskeleton, a la Iron Man, that endowed you with superhuman strength but was no bigger than a backpack. Believe it or not, Japanese research student Hideyuki Umehara has developed a prototype that does exactly that. The wearable “muscle suit,” as he calls it, is about 20 pounds and sits on the user’s back. It also has sleeves that allow for shoulder and elbow rotation. To show how it works, the inventor had a volunteer squat down, and Umehara placed an almost 90-pound sack in the volunteer’s arms. The wearer of the suit felt his hips move forward and legs straighten until he was standing with the sack without expending any energy.

2. Regenerative Healing Factor

One of the many powers Wolverine of the X-Men crew has is his regenerative healing ability, which is usually instantaneous and complete. While we’re not quite there yet, we do have rudimentary technology to produce a self-healing muscle. At Duke university last month, biomedical engineers grew living skeletal muscle that integrated into mice quickly and showed its ability to heal both inside an animal and inside the lab.

3. Climb Every Surface

Image via Flickr by JD Hancock

Wouldn’t it be so much easier next time you were running late for work just to scale the side of the building and pop in through the window to avoid your boss’s reprimands? Engineers at Cornell University have developed a device the size of your palm that uses water’s surface tension to create an adhesive bond that can stick to brick, wood, and glass. They’re currently working on applying the technology to shoes and gloves to enable users to climb up flat surfaces.

4. Arm Yourself

BATMAN, or Battlefield Air Targeting Man-Aided kNowledge is the Air Force’s nod to the Dark Knight. This uber-expensive suit is bulletproof, yet still light and agile enough to allow wearers to run and maneuver freely. Just like mythical Batman’s suit, this armor also comes with numerous visual displays. Here’s the best part, though–wearers have the option of repowering the suit’s gadgets with a Bat Hook that they can throw onto a power line to juice up their batteries.

Clearly, it’s no longer fantasy fiction for humans to have superhuman powers. Perhaps eventually gadgets like these will have us looking back at superheroes and laughing at their relatively unremarkable powers. With this kind of technology, the only question is whether you’ll use your newfound powers for good or evil.

 

Stunning Robotic Animals as Fascinating as the Real Thing

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Fascinating and horrifying at the same time, robots inspire powerful emotions in people. This is especially true the more real to life they are. The following six robots are equally amazing and sometimes cringe-worthy.

Cheetah/Wildcat

With its long legs and articulated back, the Cheetah robot is as long, lean, and dangerous looking as its biological counterpart. Also like the fastest land animal, its robotic variant is the fastest legged robot in the world. Reaching speeds of more than 29 mph, it has set a new land speed record for robots. As amazing as this is, the Cheetah is confined to the lab; it can only operate on a treadmill, tethered to a support beam for balance and to its power-source, an external hydraulic pump.

The next generation of this robot is called the Wildcat. While its current maximum speed is only 16 mph, it’s able to run free. The scientists at Boston Dynamics, the developers of these machines, expect the Wildcat to eventually reach speeds of 50 mph over all types of terrain. Read more about the cheetah and other robotic wonders here.

Robot Spider

As odious as some people find them, no one can deny that spiders are master acrobats. As agile creatures, they’re able to move quickly across all types of surfaces and some are even able to jump. Their hydraulic limbs have inspired researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing, Engineering, and Automation to design limbs for their own spider robot.

The robotic spider not only mimics the legendary speed and agility of its namesake creature, it’s also able to jump. Researchers anticipate that the mechanical arachnid will be able to aid scientists in mapping inaccessible and hard-to-reach places as well as aid in finding trapped survivors of natural disasters.

Robotic Snake

For something without legs, the snake is remarkably fast. Its elongated body is also able to squeeze into places legged animals would have a hard time fitting into. Two scientific teams across the world from each other have created two robotic snakes that move just like living snakes.

The ACM-R5H, developed by Hbot of Japan, is a modular expandable serpentine robot that can crawl and swim. The Biorobotics Lab of Carnegie Mellon University has developed its own robo-snake, a flexible wonder that can crawl, swim, and climb. Both labs are developing these robots to aid rescue workers in finding people trapped in inaccessible places.

Robot Fish

There’s probably nothing in nature that’s able to change direction as quickly as the fish. The reason fishes can change direction so quickly is the flexible structure of their bodies, especially their tail. Fishes sweep their tails from side to side to power their bodies through the water. When a fish wants to change direction, it turns its tail sharply and almost instantly is swimming the opposite way.

Scientists at MIT have developed a soft-bodied robotic fish that’s capable of the rapid motion escape manoeuver of real fish. Powered by carbon dioxide flowing through elastic channels, the robotic fish’s tail is able to bend just like the real thing.

From the racing Wildcat to fast fish, scientists are getting closer to making the robots of science-fiction movies and novels a reality. Is that a good thing? Only time will tell. Until then, find out more about animal robotics here.

5 Places to Find Nanotechnology in the Near Future

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The field of nanotechnology is exciting and innovative, and you’re about to become much more intimately acquainted with it, even if you don’t yet realize it. From the food you eat to the medical procedures performed on you, nanotechnology is quickly becoming both more available and more widely used. Where will you find it?

In the Food You Buy

Image via Flickr by Anthony Albright

Nanotechnology has so many potential uses that defining all of them is well-nigh impossible. One of the most exciting possibilities you’ll see in the future, however, involves finding nanotechnology in the food you buy at the grocery store. In addition to creating packaging designed to cut down on carbon emissions, this technology will save you money and keep you healthy.

You know those sell-by and best-used-by dates. Often, if you don’t use food before one or both of those days, you throw the product away—even if you think it’s still good. New technologies will soon use sensors and phages—or bacteriophages—that can specifically target any unhealthy bacteria in your food. That means that even if it’s a few days over its sell-by date, you can check that steak or those eggs and see if the food is still safe to eat.

In the Computers You Use

Image via Flickr by James Byrum

Nanotechnology will entirely change the way people use computers. It will even change what computers are able to do. With faster processor speeds, smaller designs, and incredible innovations, computer engineering will change more than you’ve ever imagined. From the use of ferroelectric crystals to the creation of NVRAM, or nonvolatile random access memory, you’ll soon see lighter, smaller computers that bring the world one step closer to Jetsons-inspired gadgets.

In Your Medical Care

Nanomedicine will have a lifesaving impact on so many people. It is already helping the world of health and medicine, but even better things are on the horizon. It promises to help cancer research, care, cures, and even prevention. However, treating diseases may get easier all the way around, in part by cutting the need for drugs and medication. Nanotechnology promises to reduce side effects and increase efficacy.

In Your Beauty Products

Image via Flickr by Kanko

Don’t think nanotechnology can improve your beauty routine? Think again. Nanoscale cosmetic materials will soon find their way into your makeup and beauty products. Some of the benefits associated with this type of everyday nanotechnology are:

 

  • Better coverage;
  • Deeper cleansing;
  • Improved absorption;
  • More personalization;
  • Increased antioxidant and antimicrobial properties;
  • Better sunscreens, lotions, creams, hair care, skin care, and complexion products; and
  • Specialized makeup.

 

In the Activities You Enjoy

The everyday applications of nanotechnology get even more practical. They’ll start showing up as nanoscale additives in the polymer materials used to make baseball bats, helmets, luggage, power tools, tennis rackets, and many other household and sporting items. They’ll also appear in clothing fabrics, to prevent wrinkling and the growth of bacteria. Thin, barely there films will improve your glasses, your computer screen, and even the display on your camera.

Consider all the possibilities here, and think about how much nanotechnology will help you. Aren’t you excited about the potential?

Four Innovative Robots That Wowed Crowds at CeBit

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At first blush, a business technology tradeshow doesn’t exactly sound like the Mardi Gras of good times, but four very special robotic guests livened things up at CeBit, the biggest international computer expo in the world. From stripper skills to analogue muscles and tendons, the talents and features of these humanoid robots ended up stealing the show.

The Pole-Dancing Prowess of Lexy and Tess

Image via Flickr by abulhussain

Drawing some of the biggest crowds of the 2014 expo, the Tobit Software booth continued its tradition of displaying pole-dancing robots. Costing about $40,000 to make, the two mechanical strippers are controlled from a PC, have LED lights in lieu of faces, and are powered by the 12V motors that control the windshield wipers of cars.

Tobit, a mobile app maker, gave the two gal gadgets some upgrades this year. Lexy and Tess now have more colors and larger breasts. Additionally, the company can now operate the girls from an Android smartphone, highlighting the endless potential and versatility of cellular technology.

The Diplomacy of RoboThespian

The unofficial robotic host of CeBit this year, RoboThespian offered the eloquent welcome address to attendees and then schmoozed political figures like British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. David Cameron shook hands with RoboThespian, who apparently took a selfie of the moment and then tweeted the pic just moments later.

At six feet tall, RoboThespian has cameras, can recognize facial expressions, and possesses depth perception. The Cornish company Engineered Arts created RoboThespian as an alternative to human exhibition guides who would have to recite the same tour every day. Currently, however, RoboThespian serves primarily educational purposes and also makes occasional appearances in plays and other live shows.

The Bright Future of One-Year-Old Roboy

Meet Roboy Junior, the inaugural prototype of the Roboy project, whose goal is to construct a robot that moves just like a human. Roboy has tendons, bones, and muscles fashioned after those of humans, which allow him to make complex movements. The purpose of anthropomimetic robots like Roboy is to better understand how the human body works and then apply those lessons to industrial production, such as the manufacturing of prosthetics. Roboy’s ability to simulate diseases might also help reduce the cost of training physicians. Roboy can do much more than just play sick–he can make appropriate facial expressions for many emotions, including turning red when he is “angry.”

Although robots that gyrate on poles might not exactly be a boon to the future of the human race, the technology powering their robotic peers holds tremendous promise in education, medicine, and more. RoboThespian can save human resources by handling speaking and presentation tasks, even offering a human-like touch by responding appropriately to verbal feedback from audience members. Likewise, Roboy could do wonders for prosthetics and medicine in general by helping doctors fine tune their understanding of human mechanics. Needless to say, it’s obvious why these four humanoids wowed at CeBit this year.