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Robotic Einstein Wows Spanish Technology Fair

Professor Jun Ho Oh (L) of South Korea's Institute of Advanced Technology shows off his robot Albert Hubo at the Campus party, a technology fair in Valencia, 24 July 2007. The robot can walk, talk and smile and even practise Tai-Chi thanks to advanced technology comprised in 66 motors, most of which are situated in his head. Photo courtesy AFP.
by Chris Wright
Valencia, Spain (AFP) July 27, 2007
At first glance, the bulky white figure looks like a prancing astronaut -- until it turns round and its features reveal it to be a Korean scientist's concept of a 21st century Albert Einstein. Then the robot "speaks" and proves that, as Albert would himself doubtless have pointed out, matters such as gravity and resemblance are all relative. "Hi. My name is Albert Hubo. I come from South Korea and I am very happy to be in Valencia," says the creature, after having demonstrated some rather bizarre hip-hop moves.

Albert is strutting his stuff at the Campus Party, a week-long technology fair at the Spanish city's futuristic City of Arts and Sciences complex that has drawn thousands of people.

A packed audience was on hand for the entrance of Albert, the brainchild of Jun Ho Oh of South Korea's Institute of Advanced Technology.

Albert's head bears the Einstein's instantly-recognisable facial features and his characteristic shock of white hair. But Jun has taught the robot a few tricks that the iconic scientist never managed.

He can walk, talk, smile and even have a go at the gentle movements of Tai Chi, thanks to the advanced technology packed into 66 motors, most of which are situated in his head.

According to Jun, in a few years busy householders might find a use for an Albert in the home undertaking the daily chores that humans would rather live without.

"They will be able to help human beings in daily tasks," says Jun.

Albert, who stands one metre 37 centimetres (4 foot 5 inches) tall is "based on a Windows XP platform that allows us to make him as intelligent as we want", he adds.

For Jun, the future is robotic. Albert, who takes his leave of his new admirers with a cute wave after first performing a traditional Korean dance, is just the start, he says.

"Robotic movement will extend to all kinds of applications. For example we won't need keys, as a sensor will be enough to identify us."

Albert is but one attraction at the 11th edition of the Campus Party.

For those seeking a gravitational virtual thrill, look no further than the VirtuSphere, a spherical "locomotion technology for immersing in virtual reality."

The user walks inside, dons a wireless, head-mounted display, then sets off through a range of virtual walk-through scenarios -- or as the VirtuSphere Inc. puts it, "infinite space".

The concept has aroused interest from the military and law enforcement agencies as well as athletes, architects and real estate professionals, says the company.

The VirtuSphere, invented by Ray and Nurulla Latypov, can already be admired in Seattle, Moscow and Redmond, the city in Washington state that is home to the sphere's parent company -- and also to Microsoft.

Then for the intellectually inclined, there's Mindball, a game designed to move a small ball across a table using brainwaves.

The winner is the person who can stay more relaxed as sensors attached to players' headbands measure their cerebral output.

The electrode sensors connect to a biosensor system registering the brain's electrical activity in the brain.

"Winning waves" are Alpha- and Theta-waves, the by-product of a relaxed state of mind, for that is what it takes to move the "ball" towards the opposing player's goal.

The more relaxed the player, the further the ball moves.

The 'biofeedback' game was developed from a prototype, Brainball, product of the Smart Studio at Stockholm's Interactive Institute.

More down-to-earth visitors to Campus Party can attend technological workshops and discussions ranging from software development to computer applications for astronomy.

And for PC owners loath to bite the bullet on hardware upgrades, there is all you need to know how to overclock processors and modify memory.

The City of Arts and Sciences, a spectacular complex designed by local architect Santiago Calatrava, has laid on download broadband speeds of up to five gigabytes for the event.

That's enough, says Spanish telecoms company Telefonica, to download the entire contents of the Spanish national library in a couple of hours.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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Robotic Ankle For Amputees Is Developed
Cambridge MA (UPI) Jul 25, 2007
U.S. scientists have created the world's first robotic ankle -- an important advance for lower-limb amputees. The device, developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, propels a person forward using tendon-like springs and an electric motor. Researchers said their robotic ankle reduces fatigue, improves balance and provides amputees with a more fluid gait. The prototype was created by MIT Professor Hugh Herr and colleagues.

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