Robotics Rule at Engadget Expand's Freshman Debut
Engadget held their first ever Expand conference this last weekend. This conference is really looking to set itself apart from other tech shows, in that it showcased thought-out, hand-picked selections of interesting and ground breaking technological endeavors. This was the TED of tech shows. The floor was wide and open with a smaller than usual amount of booths, providing a cozy environment to explore the fascinating ideas floating around.
Here are our top 5 picks from the show:
Z Space- the 3D Immersive Environment
This is the future. So many sci-fi films have shown a doctor operating on a patient via a hologram, and Z Space takes us one step closer to that reality. Simply put, it is a 3D immersive and interactive design and entertainment space. The components are one large angled screen, a wand-like stylus pen, and a set of 3D glasses. The example they let us interact with was a human heart. As soon as the glasses were on, what was formerly a flat image on a screen, became an incredibly realistic virtual image to be explored. I’ve studied anatomy before, but never fully comprehended what the human heart does until I saw this, as real as if I had Superman’s x-ray vision. It was incredibly user friendly, just point and twist to move around, click to turn various parts transparent and see the inner workings. This kind of application would be, and will be enormously useful in a school or training setting. In addition, there were immersive gaming experiences. Developers can take a whole new approach to design and integrate it into UNITY. To really get a feel for what it is like check out the video demo at ZSpace.
Intuitive Surgical’s da Vinci Surgical System
This remote controlled robot peeled the skin off a grape with astounding precision. Imagine the possibilities in the surgical room. A surgeon sits comfortably in the control station, viewing 3D HD imaging and manipulating 4 ever-so-sensitive robotic arms. This allows for the utmost precision, as well as cleanliness, due to the lack of human intrusion.
The EndoWrist technology equips the instruments with a range of motion far more precise and extensive than the human wrist. Follow their progress at Intuitive Surgical.
Z Board- the Electric Skateboard
Bicycling is soooo last year. Z Board is a weight sensing electric skateboard. You simply step on, tap the left button to go, and the right to stop (assuming you have your left foot facing forward, like me). I tried this out and initially it reminded me a lot of how I felt when first trying a Segway, a little shaky, unused to the power, but with some practice sessions, I’m sure I’d be zipping around in no time. People were zooming around in circles all over the conference floor, who had only 30 seconds of training.
There is a model called the San Francisco that is highly powered for the massive hills of the city, and can go up to 18mph. The board comes in a 40” long and 10.5” wide. It was a comfortable fit. Check out Zboard for more.
Ekso Bionics- the Gift of Walking
This was a truly moving piece of technology. It is a prosthetic exoskeleton, also called a bionic suit for those who have lost use of their legs and are unable to walk on their own. It works like this: Upon activation with a click of the button, the user moves into the suit in a standing position. Crutches are used for balance, because even though the user can walk, balance is not inherent and must be attained with upper body assistance. Next, the user activates the step taking mechanism with a click of a button, and then leans into it with their hips. The Ekso device is not passive in this activity. It carefully monitors to assure proper steps are taken and even sends audio feedback.
Sarah Anderson is a test pilot who was on hand for the show. When asked what this has allowed her to do, she eloquently boiled it down to the essential truth and said,
“It allows me to walk.”
She indicated that, “I actually find it very comfortable, because it is self-sustaining, so it holds itself up. It’s really doing a lot of the work. I’m just balancing myself in the right position to take the next step.” Although she did not play a official role in the design, she did tell us that many of the features are built around user feedback, like her’s. Now that is a great example of a woman embracing and shaping technology. Our hats off to you Sarah! Find out more about Sarah and the Ekso here.
Send Your Research into Space! With CASIS
Are you thinking, “Yeah that will never happen for little ‘ol me?” Think again. My thoughts were much the same, thinking that this must be a playing field only for big companies, but I was happy to be corrected. CASIS is a non-profit, and straight from their mouths, “We have no vested interest in seeing anything but great research get up there.” It all starts with a proposal to CASIS with your research. For some proposals they will even provide seed funding or match products with funding sources. Once all that is squared away, a CASIS Project Manager will be assigned to help you with follow through. Once your research blasts off, you will have real time support through direct interfacing with the space station crew. Yes, we are totally geeking out over this too. Read up on it at CASIS.
With ideas this good, we can’t wait for the next Expand!