11 photos that answer the burning question: What if nature, but also robots?

If popular culture is to be believed, there are a few great divides that are immutable. Yankees versus the Red Sox. Android versus iPhone. Technology versus nature. Never the two shall meet.

But that last one? Maybe we should stop taking it for granted. A new Dutch exhibition called Robotanica is exploring how technology and robotics in particular might play a collaborative role with the natural world. The curators have picked 11 different projects from designers, scientists, and artists that imagine how technology could blend with, and ultimately benefit, nature.

Some are real research projects or concepts, while others are more like conversation pieces. But all of them are fascinating ideas. Check them out below.


1. One big idea seen in multiple exhibits — could robots mimic, or even replace, natural animals?

It's kind of cute. All photos from Transnatural/Robotanica.

The Delfly Explorer, for instance, is a small, robotic dragonfly that can flap its wings, control its height, and even see and avoid obstacles. Can you picture a bunch of these guys skimming across the surface of a pond?

2. Swarms of the Vessel robots could paddle across the surface of water.

These are considerably less cute. The lights are a nice touch though.

3. The Woodpecker Project could even mimic the sounds of a disappearing species.

Just wait until someone hacks in and starts playing AC/DC.

The Woodpecker Project uses speakers to recreate the sound of an endangered bird species. It's not just for show — the calls help keep insects away that'd otherwise hurt the tree.

It's not a perfect solution. “We maybe better focus on protecting the biological woodpeckers,” exhibit curator Arjen Bangma told Fast Company. But the mechanical version might be able to help out while the natural population recovers.

Other projects outside the exhibition, like the robo-bee, have also looked at using robots to help replace natural animals.

4. How about living cyborg insects that could be controlled via computer? Could they be used to help find people after a disaster?

This is the least cute of all. It's, like, negative cute.

While some of these projects are more conceptual, robo-bugs are very much a real thing. You can even buy kits yourself.

5. On the other hand, maybe we could use technology to shape the world to our liking. How about a coat that breathes along with us and that could alert us to air pollution?

If someone walked up to me wearing this coat, I'd just assume they're a superhero.

6. The Cloud Machine imagines a sky full of weather-making machines to help control the climate.

I bet it makes a "spfffff" noise. Also, what is this hanging from?

Geoengineering and climate engineering are real concepts, though many people are scared of unexpected consequences basically turning the Earth into a Hollywood disaster movie.

7. The Weather War examines whether we could use machines to help redirect tornadoes.

Yeah, let's put a mysterious black orb in this field. That's not totally ominous.

The exhibit is based on the 2012 documentary of the same name.

8. What would robotics do to the animals we keep? Would the lives of farm chickens improve if we placed them in a virtual reality simulation of nature?

I really don't see how any caption could improve this.

9. What if we released herds of wild rolling tumbleweed-bots to collect data about desertification?

"Drifting along in the tumbling tumbleweeeeed..."

Just imagine seeing 20 of these coming over the horizon.

10. Or released rolling, autonomous sunlight-seeking gardens onto our streets?

"Excuse me, hooman, but do you have any fertilizer?"

11. And, in this brave new world, will we need simulations to remember old-fashioned things like the night sky?

Looks like a kind of makeshift planetarium.

Whether or not these inventions and ideas come to pass, they raise a good point.

Technology doesn't have to come at the expense of the natural world. Scientists can use devices like GPS systems to help monitor animal populations; robo-animals can help documentarians get amazing shots of wildlife; and efficient appliances and cleaner energy can help us reduce our environmental footprints.

While you might have a hard time selling chicken farmers on those teeny-tiny virtual reality helmets, perhaps technology and nature don't need to be so divorced after all.

Courtesy of Verizon
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If someone were to say "video games" to you, what are the first words that come to mind? Whatever words you thought of (fun, exciting, etc.), we're willing to guess "healthy" or "mental health tool" didn't pop into your mind.

And yet… it turns out they are. Especially for Veterans.

How? Well, for one thing, video games — and virtual reality more generally — are also more accessible and less stigmatized to veterans than mental health treatment. In fact, some psychiatrists are using virtual reality systems for this reason to treat PTSD.

Secondly, video games allow people to socialize in new ways with people who share common interests and goals. And for Veterans, many of whom leave the military feeling isolated or lonely after they lose the daily camaraderie of their regiment, that socialization is critical to their mental health. It gives them a virtual group of friends to talk with, connect to, and relate to through shared goals and interests.

In addition, according to a 2018 study, since many video games simulate real-life situations they encountered during their service, it makes socialization easier since they can relate to and find common ground with other gamers while playing.

This can help ease symptoms of depression, anxiety, and even PTSD in Veterans, which affects 20% of the Veterans who have served since 9/11.

Watch here as Verizon dives into the stories of three Veteran gamers to learn how video games helped them build community, deal with trauma and have some fun.

Band of Gamers www.youtube.com

Video games have been especially beneficial to Veterans since the beginning of the pandemic when all of us — Veterans included — have been even more isolated than ever before.

And that's why Verizon launched a challenge last year, which saw $30,000 donated to four military charities.

And this year, they're going even bigger by launching a new World of Warships charity tournament in partnership with Wargaming and Wounded Warrior Project called "Verizon Warrior Series." During the tournament, gamers will be able to interact with the game's iconic ships in new and exciting ways, all while giving back.

Together with these nonprofits, the tournament will welcome teams all across the nation in order to raise money for military charities helping Veterans in need. There will be a $100,000 prize pool donated to these charities, as well as donation drives for injured Veterans at every match during the tournament to raise extra funds.

Verizon is also providing special discounts to Those Who Serve communities, including military and first responders, and they're offering a $75 in-game content military promo for World of Warships.

Tournament finals are scheduled for August 8, so be sure to tune in to the tournament and donate if you can in order to give back to Veterans in need.

Courtesy of Verizon

Ready for the weekend? Of course, you are. Here's our weekly dose of good vibes to help you shed the stresses of the workweek and put yourself in a great frame of mind.

These 10 stories made us happy this week because they feature amazing creativity, generosity, and one super-cute fish.

1. Diver befriends a fish with the cutest smile

Hawaiian underwater photographer Yuki Nakano befriended a friendly porcupine fish and now they hang out regularly.

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