Well, I have four questions about robotics/cybernetics. I tried searching the archives but I didn’t come up with anything that seemed related.

  1. What is the feasibility of cybernetic replacement body parts. In alot of movies about the future people have their missing limbs replaced by cybernetic copies that look and work almost like the real thing.

2.Also… assuming we could make an electronic arm just like a real one… how would it work in tune with our bodies… do we know how nerve impulses affect arm movement well enough to translate them to computer language of some kind?

  1. If the previous two were possible… how would this arm be powered?

  2. More of a feasible question… if I wanted to work with robots what should I major in when I go to college? Some sort of engineering? Computer Science? I’m not really sure but I know my ocusin at the Naval Acedemy worked on robots in some sort of computer programming thing.

Well, in a primitive sense the artificial limbs that are available today are on the lines of what you’re talking about. One would think that advances in the technology would allow the interface between the limb and the human to improve in the future, though I don’t know how quickly the technology is approaching the kind of point you’d envision. I’d do some research on it, but I’m in the middle of procrastinating a lab report. Maybe later :).

As far as your fourth question goes, it depends greatly on what capacity of robotics you want to be involved in. If you want to improve their bodies and the way that they move, that would lie primarily in the area of mechanical engineering. Much of robotics/controls is done in the realm of electrical engineering. They would design stuff like the circuits that gave them power, and probably most of the sensory input devices. Then you have the computer engineers. They live on the edge between the software and the hardware systems. If you’re interested in implementing AI systems into the robot, this might be an area to consider. If there needs to be a chip on the robot that makes it do something, these are the guys who design it. They also do a lot of work on the software side, too. If you want to work purely on an AI standpoint, computer scientists do a lot of this work. They come up with the algorithms and such that would further the development of research in this area.

Sorry I couldn’t give you the cut and dried answer you probably wanted, but from my understanding those are the primary disciplines that would work on robots. I’m in college and majoring in CompE myself, and this is one area I’m interested in. If anyone with experience in the field can give a better answer, please do so. I’d be interested, too!

Upper Limb Replacement from Orthopedic Technology Review is an article which describes the current state of upper limb replacement technology (as of September 1999).

Definitely engineering, probably mechanical or electrical/computer, although with industrial you might work with programming robots to make tasks more efficient. MEs work on designing the robots (gears, hydraulics, etc.), and EE/CEs work on creating its circuits and AI. The engineering department head could explain more clearly than I could. As for computer science, different schools do things differently, so you would have to talk to the head of the CS department at whatever college you go to.

Carnegie Mellon Univ. in Pittsburgh has a well-respected robotics program. Could probably check their web sites.

Let’s see…

Whoa! Yahoo! has an entire category on their dept. alone (many sub-sites relating to different projects):

Carnegie Mellon… uh oh… I’ve heard they’re a bit expensive. Since i’m a junior… I’m kinda beginning to think about this sorta stuff. I doubt this is the right place to mention this, but college advice is always appreciated too. I’ve been getting alot of letters. Washington University in St. Luis comes to mind. As for the robotics… when thinkign about a power source I was wondering how powerful bateries are now adays. Those titanium bateries are pretty sweet… but can they be recharged as easily as … oh say… those lithium bateries used in cell phones? I know most robots today aren’t exactly C3P0’s, but if something like that was ever designed energy would be a problem.

Most engineering departments, meaning mechanical, electronic, industrial, and computer have courses related to robotics. It depends on what aspect of robotics you want to go into. If you want cybernetics, bio-engineering is offered at some schools as sort of a cross between bio-med and engineering. IIRC it covers artificial limbs, joint replacement, and everything, but in a general sense rather than specific. You don’t really speciallize in engineering until you’ve had a job for a while, so it doesn’t matter.

AI, or the control of a true robot (meaning an at least semi-autonomous machine and not just something that repeats learned behavior) would be in computer sci, or maybe even mathmatics (info theory?).