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In 1937, robot hobbyist "Bill" Griffith P. Taylor of Toronto invented the world's first industrial robot. It was a crude machine, dubbed the Robot Gargantua by its creator. The crane-like device was powered by a single electric motor and controlled via punched paper tape, which threw a series of switches controlling each of the machine's five axes of movement. Still, it could stack wooden blocks in preprogrammed patterns, an accomplishment that Meccano Magazine, an English monthly hobby magazine from the era, hailed as "a Wells-ian vision of 'Things to Come' in which human labor will not be necessary in building up the creations of architects and engineers."
The human hand's dexterity -- specifically, the opposable thumb -- has proved nearly as important to our evolution as our cognitive abilities, according to researchers from Yale University, and could potentially impart the same benefits to robot-kind. However, providing mechanical grippers with the same flexibility and adaptivity of the human hand has been incredibly difficult and expensive. That's why a vast majority of current robotic manipulators still use the two-pronged pincer system or are highly specialized to a singular task. "You can get a relatively simple gripper that's inexpensive, or you could get a very dextrous hand for two orders of magnitude more," said Jason Wheeler, a roboticist at Sandia Labs who helped develop the hand used by Robonaut 2 aboard the International Space Station. "And there aren't a whole lot of options in between."Source: We're not getting Luke Skywalker's prosthetics any time soon
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