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Behold, the Future! Madeline Gannon Taught Her Robot to Respond to Just Her Hand Gestures

Motion capture technology is rad.

We make a lot of jokes about the inevitable robot uprising here, but to be honest, this video of Autodesk Pier 9 artist-in-residence Madeline Gannon demonstrating how she’s working to get robots to recognize human motion and gestures is way too cool for jokes.

In the video, the Carnegie Mellon Ph.D candidate explains how she’s using motion capture technology to get the robot to “see” humans. Given the ability to recognize humans, the robot can then react based on the gestures it observes. It’s very Iron Man, and it’s really something to see.

It’s a quite clever idea, actually, to integrate motion capture technology with robotics, and Gannon’s ideas for using this technology sound super intriguing. Her vision for robotics is a little different than others in that she’s hoping to have humans and robots work together in the workplace as opposed to having robots replace humans. She said:

Adapting [Industrial Robots] for uses outside of manufacturing domains can change industrial robots from adversaries into collaborators. Instead of developing ways for IR’s to replace human labor, a collaborative model can create ways for IR’s to augment, amplify and extend human capabilities and creativity.

Teaching robots to respond to gestures and things like that simplifies the interaction and lowers the barrier for communication between humans and robots. You might not necessarily need an engineering degree to work with a robot anymore–you just need to know how it responds to your words and hands. Taking this barrier down opens up opportunities for so many people, and can represent a huge jump for technology in our everyday lives.

Personally I’m really geeking out about the idea of being able to interact with a robot using only my voice and hands. Asking a mobile arm to pick up something across the room is the closest I’ll ever get to telekinesis, so… don’t judge me.

(via Discover Magazine)

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Jessica Lachenal is a writer who doesn’t talk about herself a lot, so she isn’t quite sure how biographical info panels should work. But here we go anyway. She's the Weekend Editor for The Mary Sue, a Contributing Writer for The Bold Italic (, and a Staff Writer for Spinning Platters ( She's also been featured in Model View Culture and Frontiers LA magazine, and on Autostraddle. She hopes this has been as awkward for you as it has been for her.