Boston Startup’s Robotic Gripper Set to Revolutionize Prosthetics
Oct28

Boston Startup’s Robotic Gripper Set to Revolutionize Prosthetics

Empire Robotics is a two-year-old business located in Boston. The company can trace its origins to Cornell University and engineers John Amend and Bill Culley. Empire Robotics isn’t interested in being known as a robot manufacturer. Instead, this company is a leader in the gripping devices that can be attached to the robots working in a manufacturing plant. The company found early success with the Versaball. This product looks like a balloon, but it can use a vacuum to modify its shape, allowing it to pick up a variety of different objects. Amend described the inside of the balloon as a bean bag. When the vacuum is working, air allows this bean bag balloon to become soft and pliable like jelly. Once the air is vacuumed out, the same bean bag balloon becomes hard and can pick up an object. The result is a robotic grip much more versatile than the traditional finger or claw. Amend, who earned a PhD from Cornell, reported Empire Robotics has already sold 30 to 40 development kits to companies in the manufacturing industry. While Amend declined to state the names of his customers, he did state all of the sales have occurred since this past January. Manufacturing companies aren’t the only ones interested in the new robotic grip. The National Institute of Health wants to see how it can be used with a prosthetic limb, providing Empire Robotics with a $214,000 grant this past August to explore the topic. Empire Robotics is partnering with prosthetic device manufacturer Liberating Technologies for this project. Amend explained how their prosthetic work could be of a great service to disabled people. “It would allow somebody who was doing a labor job to get back to that job. A lot of people suffer hand injuries in their work and really need to get back to their work,” Amend said. Located in the Seaport District of Boston, the company currently has seven employees. Amend reported it has already raised an amount close to $500,000 in debt and equity funding in addition to more than one million dollars in...

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Six Iconic Prototypes That Changed Our World
Oct23

Six Iconic Prototypes That Changed Our World

Thomas Alva Edison said, “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.” The following are among the one percent – and they changed our world. Super Soaker Like most ingenious inventions, the super soaker came about purely by accident. Lonnie Johnson, an engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, was prototyping a water-circulation heat pump. When one of his experimental brass nozzles went kerplooey, he had an idea. He built an air pump shotgun using water instead of bullets. After seven years of thwarted salesmanship, his invention was bought in 1990 by Larami and sold as the Power Drencher. Two million were sold the first year.     Atari 2600 The Atari 2600 was created under questionable legal circumstances. Magnavox owned the rights to any Atari hardware produced during the 12 months after July 1976. So Atari engineer Al Acorn migrated to the mountains of Grass Valley, California, where he worked with Cyan Engineering to build the console in three months for $500. In June 1977, safe from the clutches of Magnavox, Atari announced its invention and proceeded to revolutionize the 1980s.       Push-Button Phone The original 1948 push-button phone worked essentially the same as a piano. Bell Labs engineering wizards gutted a Western Union 302 rotary phone and installed 10 buttons and 10 metal reeds, like wires. Pushing a button would pluck a wire, producing a particular sound. Although ingenious, the technology was unable to cope with consumer demands until the solid-state electronics of the early 1960s.       Moog Modular Electronic music was in its infancy when Bob Moog asked Herb Deutsch to help him build a smaller, better music synthesizer. The duo assembled a Rube Goldberg labyrinth of circuits and oscillators and other bits of electrical magic. With the help of a 35-cent doorbell button, the two build an analog articulation synthesizer that would become the indispensable tool of everyone from Stevie Wonder to Dr. Dre.       Mobile Cell Phone The first cell phone cost $3,995. In 1973, Motorola unveiled the DynaTAC, a brick-sized portable phone that was built in a mere three months. Engineers worked furiously to scale the cell phone down from its original dimensions, 10 times the size, and eventually packed all the necessary technology into a 4.4-pound box.       The Apple I And, of course, no list of this type could ever be complete without including the Apple I, the first personal computer to truly grab the public’s attention. Steve Wozniak had the skills and Steve Jobs had the charisma. Together, they fundamentally changed society – and did so from their garage. They built their...

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