CLOSE
Original image
YouTube / TED

Why We'll Rely on Robots

Original image
YouTube / TED

Will robots take our jobs and leave us in a high-unemployment robopocalypse? Not if Rodney Brooks has anything to say about it. In this ten-minute TED Talk, Brooks explains how he sees robotics helping humans take on daily tasks. Specifically, he shows how an assembly line robot called Baxter can be programmed by factory workers to automate some of the most mundane tasks seen on the assembly line. He even demonstrates the programming process onstage, proving how such a robot can be made humane (for instance, it doesn't crush the puny human trying to use it).

This is a stark contrast to the typical assembly robots we see in today's assembly line manufacturing, where in some cases the machines have eradicated a whole category of jobs (auto manufacturing comes to mind). Not only are those robots hard to create, program, and manage -- they're also downright dangerous to be around. Brooks addresses these machines specifically, saying, "I think it's a sort of technology that's gone wrong -- it's displaced the worker from the technology. I think we need to look at technologies that ordinary workers can interact with."

In case you don't know who Brooks is, he has serious robot cred. He cofounded iRobot (maker of the Roomba, the most-used robot in my house); he wrote the influential robotics paper Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control (later made into one of my favorite documentaries, in which he's featured); and he was director of MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory for a decade. This man knows robots. Now listen up:

For a little more context, check out Brooks speaking at TED ten years ago, showing off the Roomba, among other robots. Seriously awesome stuff, and kind of amazing to see how something that was magical ten years ago is just normal now. What will we think is totally normal in ten years?

I, for one, welcome our new robotic overlords helpers.

Original image
iStock
arrow
Animals
Welcome to Italy's 'Snail Spa,' Where Happy Mollusks Ooze Prized Slime
Original image
iStock

Wellness fads may come and go, but one beauty trend—using gross unguents to maintain a youthful glow—remains constant. Throughout history, cultures around the world have slathered themselves in concoctions containing everything from crocodile excrement to bird droppings and even snail slime, the last of which was favored by the ancient Greeks and Romans.

Today, mollusk mucous is undergoing a surprising resurgence, as cosmetics companies around the globe use the slime to make skin products. To harvest mass quantities of the clear ooze, snail farmers typically have to kill the tiny creatures. But according to Great Big Story's video below, an Italian man named Simone Sampò invented a snail slime extraction machine—which he has dubbed a "snail spa"—that sprays the critters with secret ingredients, pleasuring them to the point that they secrete their valuable ooze.

Curious how the natural lubricant gets from a mollusk's foot to a well-cared-for face? Watch Sampò's steam machine in action below, as it lulls a bevy of happy snails into producing jugs of slime.

Original image
iStock // vuk8691
arrow
video
Creating a Water-Powered Hammer Using Stone Age Tools
Original image
iStock // vuk8691

A "Monjolo" is a water-powered hammer made from a log and some sticks. It relies on flowing water from a stream to do its work.

In the video below, the anonymous laborer who goes by Primitive Technology on YouTube creates his own Monjolo from scratch. It's effectively a hollowed-out log placed in the path of a stream, supported by a structure of skinny beams. As the log fills up with water, it rises, then the water drains out the back and it comes crashing down again. When it crashes down, that's an opportunity for a hammer head on the end to do something useful—like crushing charcoal or grain.

The creator of Primitive Technology writes:

This is the first machine I’ve built using primitive technology that produces work without human effort. Falling water replaces human calories to perform a repetitive task. A permanent set up usually has a shed protecting the hammer and materials from the weather while the trough end sits outside under the spout. This type of hammer is used to pulverise grain into flour and I thought I might use one to mill dry cassava chips into flour when the garden matures. ...

Like all the Primitive Technology videos, this is done entirely without spoken or written language, and it's DIY paradise. Tune in for a look into what one man alone in the bush can create:

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios