Mar 15, 2013
Uncle Broomcorn's Odd Edge: News from the Fringes of Normality No. 5
By RTR Dennis
Cream Machine Ever wanted to remove the cream from Oreos? No, that would be insane, nobody does... except physicist and copywriter David Neevel. Mustachioed Neevel has created a Wallace and Gromit type contraption to remove the coveted vanilla cream filling from America’s favourite dunking cookie. Once an Oreo has been through the David Neevel’s quirky contraption, he gleefully collects two clean and cream-free chocolate discs.
“One of the hardest things to overcome was to um... learn how to build robots and make them work, but it was also difficult to umm keep my hands warm and the back of my neck warm.”
Great moustache, but he’s dead wrong about Oreos.
Life-Changing Robotic Exoskeleton
From the frivolous to the fundamentally ground-breaking: two years ago, on Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show of all places, Neuroscientist Miguel Nicolelis announced his plans to develop a robotic body suit that could be controlled with the mind, and would enable paralyzed people to walk again. He added that this would be done in just three to four years. If this sounds like a bold claim, you’re certainly not alone in thinking so; but two years later and Miguel Nicolelis remains confident he is on schedule to meet his self imposed deadline. He is also confident enough about meeting his target completion date, that he says he hopes to be able to unveil the finished and fully functional robotic exoskeleton at the next World Cup in his native Brazil - where a global audience of literally billions would witness the historic moment. Miguel hopes that a young paralyzed person will be able to wear the suit, controlling it using electrodes implanted in the brain; and manage to walk around twenty steps before kicking a football.
Robot Combat League
...and back to the frivolous, and frankly ridiculous.
Robot Combat League seems like it will be the most absurdly fun thing ever; a show about robots kicking the crap out of one another presented by a professional wrestler? Wow! Yeah... no. It doesn’t take even five minutes for those hopes to be dashed, and for an exciting premise to be let down by heaps of the requisite US TV false drama, rivalry, and contestant enthusiasm. And when the robots are unveiled and marched out they look disappointingly limited and camp, and as if they would be more at home on early episodes of Doctor Who.
The idea is that each team gets a different robot, but some teams really end up getting the short straw – where some are lucky enough to get a robot with an axe for a head; others get lumbered with something that looks like a child’s climbing frame, or the tin man with an antique boiler for a head. All the quick editing and dubstep music can’t mask the fact that these robots still look remarkably unintimidating and far more clunky than cool. There’s also the disappointing realisation early on that the robots are not free roaming at all, but attached to massive poles fitted to the lower backs; and that the combat essentially only consists of robots walking into one another while trying to land a punch.
The robots are piloted by teams of two, and each team is generally made up of one science nerd plus one tough athletic contestant. The teams are fighting it out for the grand prize of $100,000; but given that one of these contestants builds robots for NASA, one is a Mixed Martial Arts Champion who happens to be the daughter of George Lucas, and the rest are all in similarly comfortable positions, are they really that concerned about bagging that prize money? But the ultimate point is that the show is just a vaguely sexed-up, drawn out version of the UK’s Robot Wars – which happened years and years ago. Come on, America.