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Forget hands, Toyota’s hug-ready robot picks up with its entire body

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Forget hands, Toyota’s hug-ready robot picks up with its entire body

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In the world of robotics, we’ve often seen robots rely on their mechanical hands to pick up and manipulate objects. 

But that approach doesn’t quite capture the full essence of how humans interact with the world, especially when dealing with hefty items.

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Enter Toyota’s groundbreaking creation, the Punyo soft robot. Unlike its traditional counterparts, Punyo takes inspiration from our own human behavior. 

Imagine a robot that doesn’t just use its hands but also incorporates its chest, hips and arms to handle objects — just like we do.

CLICK TO GET KURT’S FREE CYBERGUY NEWSLETTER WITH SECURITY ALERTS, QUICK VIDEO TIPS, TECH REVIEWS AND EASY HOW-TO’S TO MAKE YOU SMARTER 

Punyo, the soft robot  (Toyota Research Institute)

Punyo’s design

Punyo features a cute and approachable face reminiscent of Disney’s Baymax from Big Hero 6. But there’s more. Punyo appears to be wearing a cozy looking sweater, which serves a practical purpose. It’s highly hug-focused.

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Toyota’s Punyo soft robot  (Toyota Research Institute)

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The hug-focused sweater

The sweater-like covering is made from grippy materials that provide a squishy, compliant layer over Punyo’s hard metal skeleton. Embedded within the fabric are tactile sensors that allow Punyo to feel precisely what it’s hugging, whether it’s a person or an object.

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Toyota’s Punyo soft robot  at work (Toyota Research Institute)

MORE: STOP LOADING THE DISHWASHER: THIS ROBOT AIMS TO DO ALL THE CLEAN-UP FOR YOU  

Punyo’s inflatable paws

Instead of traditional hands, Punyo has what Toyota calls “paws.” These aren’t your typical paws. They’re more like inflatable hooves. These paws have tiny dots printed on the inside. When the paw touches something, the dots distort, revealing the shape and force of contact. The clever camera captures this deformation, and the information is fed directly to the robot’s brain to help it grasp objects effectively.

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The Punyo soft robot has human characteristics (Toyota Research Institute)

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Punyo’s softness in the arms

Punyo’s arms are arrays of air-filled bubbles, air tubes and pressure sensors that extend from shoulder to wrist. These bubbles can be individually pressure regulated, allowing for optimal stiffness based on the task at hand.

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The Punyo soft robot lifts a box (Toyota Research Institute)

Training Punyo

Through teleoperation, Toyota Research Group roboticists have been training Punyo to handle various large objects. Some techniques include:

TOYOTA IS USING AI TO DESIGN BETTER CARS FASTER

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The Punyo soft robot from Toyota (Toyota Research Institute)

The lean and lift: Punyo leans forward, hugs items to its ches and then leans back to lift them.

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Heap it up: Punyo even has the ability to heap objects, making it versatile for different scenarios.

Creative carrying: Imagine slinging a water jug up onto Punyo’s shoulder, where it remains steady from above.

Kurt’s key takeaways

Punyo’s innovative design and emphasis on cuddling break new ground in soft robotics. Its gentle and precise grasp on large, awkward objects suggests exciting possibilities for robotic helpers in homes and other environments in the future.

Would you feel comfortable having a robot like Punyo in your home or at your workplace? Why or why not? Let us know by writing us at Cyberguy.com/Contact

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For more of my tech tips and security alerts, subscribe to my free CyberGuy Report Newsletter by heading to Cyberguy.com/Newsletter

Ask Kurt a question or let us know what stories you’d like us to cover

Answers to the most asked CyberGuy questions:

Copyright 2024 CyberGuy.com.  All rights reserved.

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Fortnite will let players hide mean emotes

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Fortnite will let players hide mean emotes

Fortnite is rolling out an update on Tuesday that includes a new setting that filters out “confrontational” emotes. The v29.30 update will let players “choose not to see” the following emotes: “Laugh It Up”, “Take the L”, “Whipcrack”, and “Make it Plantain.”

The four emotes won’t exactly be hidden per se, they’ll appear as still images in the game — but players performing them won’t dance and they won’t play music. Players can opt to only see these emotes from friends, or hide them altogether.

Though Fortnite has hundreds of different emotes, this group of four are controversial because of how and when players will use them. Fortnite players will often play emotes like “Laugh it Up” and “Take the L” after killing another player or winning a match. Players over the years have complained that emote use has gotten toxic and overly aggressive on the game, with a few players using them to anger other players, or as a sign of disrespect.

Epic Games has taken some flak for its emotes in the past — but for a completely different reason. Many of the emotes mimic popular dance moves, and multiple dance move creators have sued Epic Games accusing the game developer of ripping off their work. Back in February, Epic appeared to reach an agreement with celebrity choreographer Kyle Hanagami that led him to dropping his lawsuit over the “It’s Complicated” emoji. 

Although emotes are a widely used feature in Fortnite, they aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. This latest update appears to be a recognition on Epic’s part that, for at least some players, certain emotes just ruin the vibes. While those players won’t be able to block the emotes outright, they’ll certainly be able to make them less annoying.

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Meta wants to be the Microsoft of headsets

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Meta wants to be the Microsoft of headsets

On the theme of opening up, Meta is also pushing for more ways to discover alternative app stores. It’s making its experimental App Lab store more prominent and even inviting Google to bring the Play Store to its operating system, which is now called Horizon OS. In a blog post, Meta additionally said that it’s working on a spatial framework for developers to more easily port their mobile apps to Horizon OS.

Crucially for Meta, Horizon OS includes the Horizon social layer, a 3D, Roblox-meets-The Sims open-world platform. After a buggy and sluggish start on the Quest, Meta has been working to improve Horizon and recently brought it to the web as a 2D experience. Now, any hardware company that wants to build a device with Horizon OS will help extend the reach of Horizon the social network, which Meta wants to eventually monetize with ads and commerce. (Yes, this is approaching Google levels of naming confusion.)

Meta has yet to share more on the business terms of its Horizon OS license, aside from that social network tie-in and requiring the use of Qualcomm chips. “You can imagine a lightweight headset that pairs with your computer on your desk to provide the best work experience at home or anywhere you go,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a video announcing the news. “Or imagine one that’s fully focused on watching immersive entertainment like movies and videos with the highest resolution OLED screens out there.” Spokespeople for Lenovo, Asus, and Xbox didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Zuckerberg has been clear that he wants his company to be a more open platform than Apple’s. Here, he’s firmly positioning Meta’s Horizon OS as the Android alternative to Apple’s Vision Pro. Given how Android was more of a reaction to the iPhone, an analogy he’d probably prefer is how Microsoft built the early PC market by licensing Windows.

Meta’s move has been a long time coming. “In the open ecosystem, basically you have much broader partnerships,” Zuckerberg told me in an interview in the fall of 2022. “So Microsoft didn’t build the chips; they didn’t build the PCs; they didn’t build the App Store. It was all this key stuff that was developed around the ecosystem. Similar to Android. And that’s basically what we hope to build here — is the open ecosystem for the next generation of computing around virtual and augmented reality in the metaverse more broadly, which means that there are going to need to be all these partnerships.”

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Tidy up your tech: Spring-cleaning tips for safeguarding your data

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Tidy up your tech: Spring-cleaning tips for safeguarding your data

It happens without warning. Suddenly, access to your personal data gets interrupted by a simple hardware failure, nasty virus, cyberattack, software glitch, accidental deletion or human mistake. It’s clearer than ever that our personal data is vulnerable.

As an advocate for privacy and security, and the editor behind the popular CyberGuy Report, which you can subscribe to for free at CyberGuy.com/newsletter, I have always emphasized the importance of personal responsibility when it comes to data security. My top recommendation for protecting your precious memories, critical documents and the mountains of personal data we accumulate is straightforward: utilize a personal drive for backups.

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Woman on laptop (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

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Choosing the right backup tools

Spring is traditionally a time for cleaning, and this should extend to digital hygiene as well. Each year, I undertake a thorough cleaning of my personal data, making sure to back up documents, family photos and other irreplaceable items. There’s nothing quite like the peace of mind that comes from having a physical backup, which places control firmly in your hands, irrespective of whether you use a Mac, PC or even a Chromebook.

Tidy up your tech: Spring-cleaning tips for safeguarding your data

Man on a laptop (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

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Recommended backup solutions

One of my favorite tools for this task is the WD Portable Drive, which offers 2 terabytes of storage. It easily connects to your device via SuperSpeed USB 3.0, ensuring quick and efficient data transfer and is fully compatible with Chromebook. A reliable drive like this is a must-have; I use another similar WD model for my MacBook and PC.

Tidy up your tech: Spring-cleaning tips for safeguarding your data

WD portable drive (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

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Back up, unplug, store your portable drive in a secure place

In addition to regular ongoing backups either on the cloud or another drive, I use this WD drive that plugs into your Mac, PC or Chromebook as an extra copy of my important data that can be disconnected and kept in a safe place away from hackers and other threats.

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Tidy up your tech: Spring-cleaning tips for safeguarding your data

Man typing on laptop (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

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What to back up: A digital checklist

When deciding what to back up from your computer, it’s crucial to prioritize documents, files and memories that are important and irreplaceable. Here’s a comprehensive list to consider.

1) Personal documents: Include items like birth certificates, passports, social security cards, marriage certificates, wills and other legal documents that could be difficult or time-consuming to replace.

2) Financial records: This category should cover bank statements, tax returns, investment records and other financial documents that are essential for personal record-keeping and legal compliance.

3) Photos and videos: Family photos, vacation videos, special events like weddings or graduations and other personal memories that cannot be recreated.

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4) Work and educational documents: If you use your computer for work or school, ensure you back up important projects, research papers, presentations and related correspondence.

5) Emails: Some emails might contain important information, agreements or attachments that you may need to refer back to. Consider backing up important emails or archiving them.

6) Contacts: A backup of your digital address book can save you a lot of trouble in case you lose access to your devices.

7) Music and media collections: For those who collect music, movies and books digitally, backing up these files ensures you don’t lose your collection.

8) Software and app data: Back up settings and data for apps that you use frequently, especially if they help manage your schedule, finances or health.

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9) Website bookmarks: If you rely on bookmarks to navigate the internet efficiently, backing them up can save time if you need to restore or switch to a new device.

10) Game saves and profiles: If you’re a gamer, backing up your game saves and profiles can prevent loss of progress in case of system failure.

11) Creative works: Include writings, artwork, design files, coding projects or any other personal or professional creative work.

The reality of digital threats, whether from ransomware attacks, viruses or even technical glitches in the cloud, is not a matter of “if” but “when.” By maintaining a physical backup of your most crucial data, you ensure that in the event of a digital catastrophe, what matters most remains safe in your hands.

Tidy up your tech: Spring-cleaning tips for safeguarding your data

Woman on phone and laptop (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

Kurt’s key takeaways

Remember, safeguarding your digital life with a reliable physical backup isn’t just a precaution, it’s a necessity. This spring, take the time to protect yourself from potential future data disasters. Unplug your backup drive and store it in a safe place. It’s a simple step that could save you a lot of heartaches.

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What’s your “data disaster” story and what lessons did you learn about digital backups from it? Let us know by writing us at Cyberguy.com/Contact.

For more of my tech tips & security alerts, subscribe to my free CyberGuy Report Newsletter by heading to Cyberguy.com/Newsletter.

Ask Kurt a question or let us know what stories you’d like us to cover.

Answers to the most asked CyberGuy questions:

Copyright 2024 CyberGuy.com. All rights reserved.

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