All posts by Erico Guizzo

Video Friday: CMU Team Prepares for DARPA Subterranean Challenge

Post Syndicated from Erico Guizzo original https://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/robotics-hardware/video-friday-cmu-darpa-subterranean-challenge

Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your Automaton bloggers. We’ll also be posting a weekly calendar of upcoming robotics events for the next few months; here’s what we have so far (send us your events!):

DARPA SubT Urban Circuit – February 18-27, 2020 – Olympia, Wash., USA
HRI 2020 – March 23-26, 2020 – Cambridge, U.K.
ICARSC 2020 – April 15-17, 2020 – Ponta Delgada, Azores
ICRA 2020 – May 31-4, 2020 – Paris, France
ICUAS 2020 – June 9-12, 2020 – Athens, Greece
CLAWAR 2020 – August 24-26, 2020 – Moscow, Russia

Let us know if you have suggestions for next week, and enjoy today’s videos.


Iran Unveils Its Most Advanced Humanoid Robot Yet

Post Syndicated from Erico Guizzo original https://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/humanoids/iran-surena-iv-humanoid-robot

A little over a decade ago, researchers at the University of Tehran introduced a rudimentary humanoid robot called Surena. An improved model capable of walking, Surena II, was announced not long after, followed by the more capable Surena III in 2015.

Now the Iranian roboticists have unveiled Surena IV. The new robot is a major improvement over previous designs. A video highlighting its capabilities shows the robot mimicking a person’s pose, grasping a water bottle, and writing its name on a whiteboard.

Surena is also shown taking a group selfie with its human pals.

Video Friday: UBTECH’s Walker Robot Serves Drinks, Does Yoga

Post Syndicated from Erico Guizzo original https://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/humanoids/video-friday-ubtech-walker-robot

Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your Automaton bloggers. We’ll also be posting a weekly calendar of upcoming robotics events for the next few months; here’s what we have so far (send us your events!):

DARPA SubT Urban Circuit – February 18-27, 2020 – Olympia, Wash., USA
HRI 2020 – March 23-26, 2020 – Cambridge, U.K.
ICARSC 2020 – April 15-17, 2020 – Ponta Delgada, Azores
ICRA 2020 – May 31-4, 2020 – Paris, France
ICUAS 2020 – June 9-12, 2020 – Athens, Greece
CLAWAR 2020 – August 24-26, 2020 – Moscow, Russia

Let us know if you have suggestions for next week, and enjoy today’s videos.

10 Years of Automaton’s Most Popular Stories

Post Syndicated from Erico Guizzo original https://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/robotics-hardware/automaton-most-popular-stories

We’ve been writing about robots here at IEEE Spectrum for a long, long time. Erico started covering robotics for Spectrum in 2007, about the same time that Evan started BotJunkie.com. We joined forces in 2011, and have published thousands of articles since then, chronicling as many aspects of the field as we could. Autonomous cars, humanoids, legged robots, drones, robots in space—the last decade in robotics has been incredible.

To kick off 2020, we’re taking a look back at our most popular posts of the last 10 years. In order, listed below are the 100 articles with the highest total page views, providing a cross-section of what was the most interesting in robotics from 2010 until now.

Also, sometime in the next several weeks, we plan to post a selection of our favorite stories, focusing on what we think were the biggest developments in robotics of the past decade (including a few things that, surprisingly, did not make the list below). If you have suggestions of important robot stories we should include, let us know. Thank you for reading!


#1

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How Google’s Self-Driving Car Works

Google engineers explain the technology behind their self-driving car and show videos of road tests

By Erico Guizzo
Posted 18 Oct 2011


#2

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This Robot Can Do More Push-Ups Because It Sweats

A robot that uses artificial sweat can cool its motors without bulky radiators

By Evan Ackerman
Posted 13 Oct 2016


#3

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Meet Geminoid F, a Smiling Female Android

Geminoid F displays facial expressions more naturally than previous androids

By Erico Guizzo
Posted 3 Apr 2010


#4

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Latest Geminoid Is Incredibly Realistic

Geminoid DK is a realistic android nearly indistinguishable from a real human

By Evan Ackerman
Posted 5 Mar 2011


#5

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The Next Generation of Boston Dynamics’ ATLAS Robot Is Quiet, Robust, and Tether Free

The latest ATLAS is by far the most advanced humanoid robot in existence

By Evan Ackerman & Erico Guizzo
Posted 23 Feb 2016


#6

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The Uncanny Valley: The Original Essay by Masahiro Mori

“The Uncanny Valley” by Masahiro Mori is an influential essay in robotics. This is the first English translation authorized by Mori.

By Masahiro Mori
Posted 12 Jun 2012


#7

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NASA JSC Unveils Valkyrie DRC Robot

NASA’s DARPA Robotics Challenge entry is much more than Robonaut with legs: it’s a completely new humanoid robot

By Evan Ackerman
Posted 10 Dec 2013


#8

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Origami Robot Folds Itself Up, Does Cool Stuff, Dissolves Into Nothing

Tiny self-folding magnetically actuated robot creates itself when you want it, disappears when you don’t

By Evan Ackerman
Posted 28 May 2015


#9

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Robots Bring Couple Together, Engagement Ensues

Yes, you really can find love at an IEEE conference

By Evan Ackerman & Erico Guizzo
Posted 31 Mar 2014


#10

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Facebook AI Director Yann LeCun on His Quest to Unleash Deep Learning and Make Machines Smarter

The Deep Learning expert explains how convolutional nets work, why Facebook needs AI, what he dislikes about the Singularity, and more

By Lee Gomes
Posted 18 Feb 2015


#11

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This Is the Most Amazing Biomimetic Anthropomorphic Robot Hand We’ve Ever Seen

Luke Skywalker, your new robotic hand is ready

By Evan Ackerman
Posted 17 Feb 2016


#12

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Dutch Police Training Eagles to Take Down Drones

Attack eagles are training to become part of the Dutch National Police anti-drone arsenal

By Evan Ackerman
Posted 1 Feb 2016


#13

You (YOU!) Can Take Stanford’s ’Intro to AI’ Course Next Quarter, For Free

Sebastian Thrun and Peter Norvig are offering Stanford’s “Introduction to Artificial Intelligence” course online, for free, grades and all

By Evan Ackerman
Posted 4 Aug 2011


#14

Robot Hand Beats You at Rock, Paper, Scissors 100% Of The Time

Watch this high-speed robot hand cheat at rock, paper, scissors

By Evan Ackerman
Posted 26 Jun 2012


#15

You’ve Never Seen a Robot Drive System Like This Before

Using just a single spinning hemisphere mounted on a gimbal, this robot demonstrates some incredible agility

By Evan Ackerman
Posted 7 Jul 2011


#16

Fukushima Robot Operator Writes Tell-All Blog

An anonymous worker at Japan’s Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant has written dozens of blog posts describing his experience as a lead robot operator at the crippled facility

By Erico Guizzo
Posted 23 Aug 2011


#17

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Should Quadrotors All Look Like This?

Researchers say we’ve been designing quadrotors the wrong way

By Evan Ackerman
Posted 13 Nov 2013


#18

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Boston Dynamics’ PETMAN Humanoid Robot Walks and Does Push-Ups

Boston Dynamics releases stunning video showing off its most advanced humanoid robot

By Erico Guizzo
Posted 31 Oct 2011


#19

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Boston Dynamics’ Spot Robot Dog Goes on Sale

Here’s everything we know about Boston Dynamics’ first commercial robot

By Erico Guizzo
Posted 24 Sep 2019


#20

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Agility Robotics Introduces Cassie, a Dynamic and Talented Robot Delivery Ostrich

One day, robots like these will be scampering up your steps to drop off packages

By Evan Ackerman
Posted 9 Feb 2017


#21

Superfast Scanner Lets You Digitize Book By Flipping Pages

Tokyo University researchers develop scanner that can capture 200 pages in one minute

By Erico Guizzo
Posted 17 Mar 2010


#22

A Robot That Balances on a Ball

Masaaki Kumagai has built wheeled robots, crawling robots, and legged robots. Now he’s built a robot that rides on a ball

By Erico Guizzo
Posted 29 Apr 2010


#23

Top 10 Robotic Kinect Hacks

Microsoft’s Kinect 3D motion detector has been hacked into lots of awesome robots, and here are our 10 favorites

By Evan Ackerman
Posted 7 Mar 2011


#24

Latest AlphaDog Robot Prototypes Get Less Noisy, More Brainy

New video shows Boston Dynamics and DARPA putting AlphaDog through its paces

By Evan Ackerman
Posted 11 Sep 2012


#25

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How South Korea’s DRC-HUBO Robot Won the DARPA Robotics Challenge

This transformer robot took first place because it was fast, adaptable, and didn’t fall down

By Erico Guizzo & Evan Ackerman
Posted 9 Jun 2015


#26

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U.S. Army Considers Replacing Thousands of Soldiers With Robots

The U.S. Army could slash personnel numbers and toss in more robots instead

By Evan Ackerman
Posted 22 Jan 2014


#27

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Google Acquires Seven Robot Companies, Wants Big Role in Robotics

The company is funding a major new robotics group and acquiring a bunch of robot startups

By Evan Ackerman & Erico Guizzo
Posted 4 Dec 2013


#28

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Who Is SCHAFT, the Robot Company Bought by Google and Winner of the DRC?

Here’s everything we know about this secretive robotics startup

By Erico Guizzo & Evan Ackerman
Posted 6 Feb 2014


#29

Ground-Effect Robot Could Be Key To Future High-Speed Trains

Trains that levitate on cushions of air could be the future of fast and efficient travel, if this robot can figure out how to keep them stable

By Evan Ackerman
Posted 10 May 2011


#30

Hobby Robot Rides a Bike the Old-Fashioned Way

I don’t know where this little robot got its awesome bicycle, but it sure knows how to ride

By Evan Ackerman
Posted 24 Oct 2011


#31

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SRI Demonstrates Abacus, the First New Rotary Transmission Design in 50 Years

Finally a gear system that could replace costly harmonic drives

By Evan Ackerman
Posted 19 Oct 2016


#32

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Robotic Micro-Scallops Can Swim Through Your Eyeballs

Tiny robots modeled on scallops are able to swim through all the fluids in your body

By Evan Ackerman
Posted 4 Nov 2014


#33

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Boston Dynamics Officially Unveils Its Wheel-Leg Robot: “Best of Both Worlds”

Handle is a humanoid robot on wheels, and it’s amazing

By Erico Guizzo & Evan Ackerman
Posted 27 Feb 2017


#34

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iRobot Brings Visual Mapping and Navigation to the Roomba 980

The new robot vacuum uses VSLAM to navigate and clean larger spaces in satisfyingly straight lines

By Evan Ackerman & Erico Guizzo
Posted 16 Sep 2015


#35

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When Will We Have Robots To Help With Household Chores?

Google, Microsoft, and Apple are investing in robots. Does that mean home robots are on the way?

By Satyandra K. Gupta
Posted 2 Jan 2014


#36

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Robots Playing Ping Pong: What’s Real, and What’s Not?

Kuka’s robot vs. human ping pong match looks to be more hype than reality

By Evan Ackerman
Posted 12 Mar 2014


#37

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BigDog Throws Cinder Blocks with Huge Robotic Face-Arm

I don’t know why BigDog needs a fifth limb to throw cinder blocks, but it’s incredibly awesome

By Evan Ackerman
Posted 28 Feb 2013


#38

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Children Beating Up Robot Inspires New Escape Maneuver System

Japanese researchers show that children can act like horrible little brats towards robots

By Kate Darling
Posted 6 Aug 2015


#39

Boston Dynamics’ AlphaDog Quadruped Robot Prototype on Video

Boston Dynamics has just released some absolutely incredible video of their huge new quadruped robot, AlphaDog

By Evan Ackerman
Posted 30 Sep 2011


#40

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Building a Super Robust Robot Hand

Researchers have built an anthropomorphic robot hand that can endure even strikes from a hammer without breaking into pieces

By Erico Guizzo
Posted 25 Jan 2011


#41

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Who’s Afraid of the Uncanny Valley?

To design the androids of the future, we shouldn’t fear exploring the depths of the uncanny valley

By Erico Guizzo
Posted 2 Apr 2010


#42

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Why AlphaGo Is Not AI

Google DeepMind’s artificial intelligence AlphaGo is a big advance but it will not get us to strong AI

By Jean-Christophe Baillie
Posted 17 Mar 2016


#43

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Freaky Boneless Robot Walks on Soft Legs

This soft, inflatable, and totally creepy robot from Harvard can get up and walk on four squishy legs

By Evan Ackerman
Posted 29 Nov 2011


#44

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Sweep Is a $250 LIDAR With Range of 40 Meters That Works Outdoors

Finally an affordable LIDAR for robots and drones

By Evan Ackerman
Posted 6 Apr 2016


#45

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How Google Wants to Solve Robotic Grasping by Letting Robots Learn for Themselves

800,000 grasps is just the beginning for Google’s large-scale robotic grasping project

By Evan Ackerman
Posted 28 Mar 2016


#46

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Whoa: Boston Dynamics Announces New WildCat Quadruped Robot

A new robot from Boston Dynamics can run outdoors, untethered, at up to 25 km/h

By Evan Ackerman
Posted 3 Oct 2013


#47

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SCHAFT Unveils Awesome New Bipedal Robot at Japan Conference

SCHAFT demos a new bipedal robot designed to “help society”

By Evan Ackerman & Erico Guizzo
Posted 8 Apr 2016


#48

Riding Honda’s U3-X Unicycle of the Future

It only has one wheel, but Honda’s futuristic personal mobility device is no pedal-pusher

By Anne-Marie Corley
Posted 12 Apr 2010


#49

Lingodroid Robots Invent Their Own Spoken Language

These little robots make up their own words to tell each other where they are and where they want to go

By Evan Ackerman
Posted 17 May 2011


#50

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Disney Robot With Air-Water Actuators Shows Off “Very Fluid” Motions

Meet Jimmy, a robot puppet powered by fluid actuators

By Erico Guizzo
Posted 1 Sep 2016


#51

Kilobots Are Cheap Enough to Swarm in the Thousands

What can you do with a $14 robot? Not much. What can you do with a thousand $14 robots? World domination

By Evan Ackerman
Posted 16 Jun 2011


#52

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Honda Robotics Unveils Next-Generation ASIMO Robot

We heard some rumors that Honda was working on something big, and here it is: a brand new ASIMO

By Evan Ackerman
Posted 7 Nov 2011


#53

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Cybernetic Third Arm Makes Drummers Even More Annoying

It keeps proper time and comes with an off switch, making this robotic third arm infinitely better than a human drummer

By Evan Ackerman
Posted 18 Feb 2016


#54

Chatbot Tries to Talk to Itself, Things Get Weird

“I am not a robot. I am a unicorn.”

By Evan Ackerman
Posted 29 Aug 2011


#55

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Dean Kamen’s “Luke Arm” Prosthesis Receives FDA Approval

This advanced bionic arm for amputees has been approved for commercialization

By Erico Guizzo
Posted 13 May 2014


#56

Meet the Amazing Robots That Will Compete in the DARPA Robotics Challenge

Over the next two years, robotics will be revolutionized, and here’s how it’s going to happen

By Evan Ackerman
Posted 24 Oct 2012


#57

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ReWalk Robotics’s New Exoskeleton Lets Paraplegic Stroll the Streets of NYC

Yesterday, a paralyzed man strapped on a pair of robotic legs and stepped out a hotel door in midtown Manhattan

By Eliza Strickland
Posted 15 Jul 2015


#58

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Drone Uses AI and 11,500 Crashes to Learn How to Fly

Crashing into objects has taught this drone to fly autonomously, by learning what not to do

By Evan Ackerman
Posted 10 May 2017


#59

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Lego Announces Mindstorms EV3, a More ’Hackable’ Robotics Kit

Lego’s latest Mindstorms kit has a new IR sensor, runs on Linux, and is compatible with Android and iOS apps

By Erico Guizzo & Stephen Cass
Posted 7 Jan 2013


#60

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Boston Dynamics’ Marc Raibert on Next-Gen ATLAS: “A Huge Amount of Work”

The founder of Boston Dynamics describes how his team built one of the most advanced humanoids ever

By Erico Guizzo & Evan Ackerman
Posted 24 Feb 2016


#61

AR Drone That Infects Other Drones With Virus Wins DroneGames

Other projects included a leashed auto-tweeting drone, and code to control a swarm of drones all at once

By Evan Ackerman
Posted 6 Dec 2012


#62

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DARPA Robotics Challenge: A Compilation of Robots Falling Down

Gravity is a bad thing for robots

By Erico Guizzo & Evan Ackerman
Posted 6 Jun 2015


#63

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Bosch’s Giant Robot Can Punch Weeds to Death

A modular agricultural robot from Bosch startup Deepfield Robotics deals with weeds the old fashioned way: violently

By Evan Ackerman
Posted 12 Nov 2015


#64

How to Make a Humanoid Robot Dance

Japanese roboticists demonstrate a female android singing and dancing along with a troupe of human performers

By Erico Guizzo
Posted 2 Nov 2010


#65

What Technologies Enabled Drones to Proliferate?

Five years ago few people had even heard of quadcopters. Now they seem to be everywhere

By Markus Waibel
Posted 19 Feb 2010


#66

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Video Friday: Professor Ishiguro’s New Robot Child, and More

Your weekly selection of awesome robot videos

By Evan Ackerman, Erico Guizzo & Fan Shi
Posted 3 Aug 2018


#67

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Drone Provides Colorado Flooding Assistance Until FEMA Freaks Out

Drones can provide near real-time maps in weather that grounds other aircraft, but FEMA has banned them

By Evan Ackerman
Posted 16 Sep 2013


#68

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A Thousand Kilobots Self-Assemble Into Complex Shapes

This is probably the most robots that have ever been in the same place at the same time, ever

By Evan Ackerman
Posted 14 Aug 2014


#69

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Boston Dynamics’ SpotMini Is All Electric, Agile, and Has a Capable Face-Arm

A fun-sized version of Spot is the most domesticated Boston Dynamics robot we’ve seen

By Evan Ackerman
Posted 23 Jun 2016


#70

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Kenshiro Robot Gets New Muscles and Bones

This humanoid is trying to mimic the human body down to muscles and bones

By Angelica Lim
Posted 10 Dec 2012


#71

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Roomba Inventor Joe Jones on His New Weed-Killing Robot, and What’s So Hard About Consumer Robotics

The inventor of the Roomba tells us about his new solar-powered, weed-destroying robot

By Evan Ackerman
Posted 6 Jul 2017


#72

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George Devol: A Life Devoted to Invention, and Robots

George Devol’s most famous invention—the first programmable industrial robot—started a revolution in manufacturing that continues to this day

By Bob Malone
Posted 26 Sep 2011


#73

World Robot Population Reaches 8.6 Million

Here’s an estimate of the number of industrial and service robots worldwide

By Erico Guizzo
Posted 14 Apr 2010


#74

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U.S. Senator Calls Robot Projects Wasteful. Robots Call Senator Wasteful

U.S. Senator Tom Coburn criticizes the NSF for squandering “millions of dollars on wasteful projects,” including three that involve robots

By Erico Guizzo
Posted 14 Jun 2011


#75

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Inception Drive: A Compact, Infinitely Variable Transmission for Robotics

A novel nested-pulley configuration forms the heart of a transmission that could make robots safer and more energy efficient

By Evan Ackerman & Celia Gorman
Posted 20 Sep 2017


#76

iRobot Demonstrates New Weaponized Robot

iRobot has released video showing a Warrior robot deploying an anti-personnel obstacle breaching system

By John Palmisano
Posted 30 May 2010


#77

Robotics Trends for 2012

Nearly a quarter of the year is already behind us, but we thought we’d spend some time looking at the months ahead and make some predictions about what’s going to be big in robotics

By Erico Guizzo & Travis Deyle
Posted 20 Mar 2012


#78

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DRC Finals: CMU’s CHIMP Gets Up After Fall, Shows How Awesome Robots Can Be

The most amazing run we saw all day came from CHIMP, which was the only robot to fall and get up again

By Evan Ackerman & Erico Guizzo
Posted 5 Jun 2015


#79

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Lethal Microdrones, Dystopian Futures, and the Autonomous Weapons Debate

The future of weaponized robots requires a reasoned discussion, not scary videos

By Evan Ackerman
Posted 15 Nov 2017


#80

Every Kid Needs One of These DIY Robotics Kits

For just $200, this kit from a CMU spinoff company is a great way for total beginners to get started building robots

By Evan Ackerman
Posted 11 Jul 2012


#81

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Beautiful Fluid Actuators from Disney Research Make Soft, Safe Robot Arms

Routing forces through air and water allows for displaced motors and safe, high-performance arms

By Evan Ackerman
Posted 9 Oct 2014


#82

Boston Dynamics Sand Flea Robot Demonstrates Astonishing Jumping Skills

Watch a brand new video of Boston Dynamics’ Sand Flea robot jumping 10 meters into the air

By Evan Ackerman
Posted 28 Mar 2012


#83

Eyeborg: Man Replaces False Eye With Bionic Camera

Canadian filmmaker Rob Spence has replaced his false eye with a bionic camera eye. He showed us his latest prototype

By Tim Hornyak
Posted 11 Jun 2010


#84

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We Should Not Ban ‘Killer Robots,’ and Here’s Why

What we really need is a way of making autonomous armed robots ethical, because we’re not going to be able to prevent them from existing

By Evan Ackerman
Posted 28 Jul 2015


#85

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Yale’s Robot Hand Copies How Your Fingers Work to Improve Object Manipulation

These robotic fingers can turn friction on and off to make it easier to manipulate objects with one hand

By Evan Ackerman
Posted 12 Sep 2018


#86

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France Developing Advanced Humanoid Robot Romeo

Nao, the small French humanoid robot, is getting a big brother

By Erico Guizzo
Posted 13 Dec 2010


#87

DARPA Wants to Give Soldiers Robot Surrogates, Avatar Style

Soldiers controlling bipedal robot surrogates on the battlefield? It’s not science fiction, it’s DARPA’s 2012 budget

By Evan Ackerman
Posted 17 Feb 2012


#88

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Whoa: Quadrotors Play Catch With Inverted Pendulum

Watch these quadrotors balance a stick on its end, and then toss it back and forth

By Evan Ackerman
Posted 21 Feb 2013


#89

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Why We Should Build Humanlike Robots

Humans are brilliant, beautiful, compassionate, and capable of love. Why shouldn’t we aspire to make robots humanlike in these ways?

By David Hanson
Posted 1 Apr 2011


#90

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DARPA Robotics Challenge Finals: Know Your Robots

All 25 robots in a single handy poster-size image

By Erico Guizzo & Evan Ackerman
Posted 3 Jun 2015


#91

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Here’s That Extra Pair of Robot Arms You’ve Always Wanted

MIT researchers develop wearable robotic arms that can give you an extra hand (or two)

By Evan Ackerman
Posted 2 Jun 2014


#92

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Rat Robot Beats on Live Rats to Make Them Depressed

A robotic rat can be used to depress live rats to make them suitable for human drug trials

By Evan Ackerman
Posted 13 Feb 2013


#93

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MIT Cheetah Robot Bounds Off Tether, Outdoors

The newest version of MIT’s Cheetah is fast, it’s quiet, and it jumps

By Evan Ackerman
Posted 15 Sep 2014


#94

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Bizarre Soft Robots Evolve to Run

These simulated robots may be wacky looking, but they’ve evolved on their own to be fast and efficient

By Evan Ackerman
Posted 11 Apr 2013


#95

Robot Car Intersections Are Terrifyingly Efficient

In the future, robots will blow through intersections without stopping, and you won’t be able to handle it

By Evan Ackerman
Posted 13 Mar 2012


#96

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iRobot’s New Roomba 800 Series Has Better Vacuuming With Less Maintenance

A redesigned cleaning system makes the new vacuum way better at dealing with hair (and everything else)

By Evan Ackerman
Posted 12 Nov 2013


#97

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Sawyer: Rethink Robotics Unveils New Robot

It’s smaller, faster, stronger, and more precise: meet Sawyer, Rethink Robotics’ new manufacturing robot

By Evan Ackerman & Erico Guizzo
Posted 19 Mar 2015


#98

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Cynthia Breazeal Unveils Jibo, a Social Robot for the Home

The famed MIT roboticist is launching a crowdfunding campaign to bring social robots to consumers

By Erico Guizzo
Posted 16 Jul 2014


#99

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These Robots Will Teach Kids Programming Skills

Startup Play-i says its robots can make computer programming fun and accessible

By Erico Guizzo
Posted 30 Oct 2013


#100

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Watch a Swarm of Flying Robots Build a 6-Meter Brick Tower

This is what happens when a bunch of roboticists and architects get together in an art gallery

By Erico Guizzo
Posted 2 Dec 2011


Your Next Salad Could Be Grown by a Robot

Post Syndicated from Erico Guizzo original https://spectrum.ieee.org/robotics/industrial-robots/your-next-salad-could-be-grown-by-a-robot

graphic link to special report landing page

At first glance, the crops don’t look any different from other crops blanketing the Salinas Valley, in California, which is often called “America’s salad bowl.” All you see are rows and rows of lettuce, broccoli, and cauliflower stretching to the horizon. But then the big orange robots roll through.

The machines are on a search-and-destroy mission. Their target? Weeds. Equipped with tractorlike wheels and an array of cameras and environmental sensors, they drive autonomously up and down the rows of produce, hunting for any leafy green invaders. Rather than spraying herbicides, they deploy a retractable hoe that kills the weeds swiftly and precisely.

The robots belong to FarmWise, a San Francisco startup that wants to use robotics and artificial intelligence to make agriculture more sustainable—and tastier. The company has raised US $14.5 million in a recent funding round, and in 2020 it plans to deploy its first commercial fleet of robots, with more than 10 machines serving farmers in the Salinas Valley.

FarmWise says that although its robots are currently optimized for weeding, future designs will do much more. “Our goal is to become a universal farming platform,” says cofounder and CEO ­Sébastien Boyer. “We want to automate pretty much all tasks from seeding all the way to harvesting.”

Boyer envisions the robots collecting vast amounts of data, including detailed images of the crops and parameters that affect their health such as temperature, humidity, and soil conditions. But it’s what the robots will do with the data that makes them truly remarkable. Using machine learning, they’ll identify each plant individually, determine whether it’s thriving, and tend to it accordingly. Thanks to these AI-powered robots, every broccoli stalk will get the attention it needs to be the best broccoli it can be.

Automation is not new to agriculture. Wheeled harvesters are increasingly autonomous, and farmers have long been flying drones to monitor their crops from above. Also under development are robots designed to pick fruits and vegetables—apples, peppers, strawberries, tomatoes, grapes, cucumbers, asparagus. More recently, a number of robotics companies have turned their attention to ways they can improve the quality or yield of crops.

Farming robots are still a “very nascent market,” says Rian Whitton, a senior analyst at ABI Research, in London, but it’s one that will “expand significantly over the next 10 years.” ABI forecasts that annual shipments of mobile robots for agriculture will exceed 100,000 units globally by 2030, 100 times the volume deployed today.

It’s still a small number compared with the millions of tractors and other farming vehicles sold each year, but Whitton notes that demand for automation will likely accelerate due to labor shortages in many parts of the world.

FarmWise says it has worked closely with farmers to understand their needs and develop its robots based on their feedback. So how do they work? Boyer is not prepared to reveal specifics about the company’s technology, but he says the machines operate in three steps.

First, the sensor array captures images and other relevant data about the crops and stores that information on both onboard computers and cloud servers. The second step is the decision-making process, in which specialized deep-learning algorithms analyze the data. There’s an algorithm trained to detect plants in an image, and the robots combine that output with GPS and other location data to precisely identify each plant. Another algorithm is trained to decide whether a plant is, say, a lettuce head or a weed. The final step is the physical action that the machines perform on the crops—for example, deploying the weeding hoe.

Boyer says the robots perform the three steps in less than a second. Indeed, the robots can drive through the fields clearing the soil at a pace that would be virtually impossible for humans to match. FarmWise says its robots have removed weeds from more than 10 million plants to date.

Whitton, the ABI analyst, says focusing on weeding as an initial application makes sense. “There are potentially billions of dollars to be saved from less pesticide use, so that’s the fashionable use case,” he says. But he adds that commercial success for agriculture automation startups will depend on whether they can expand their services to perform additional farming tasks as well as operate in a variety of regions and climates.

Already FarmWise has a growing number of competitors. Deepfield Robotics, a spin-out of the German conglomerate Robert Bosch, is testing an autonomous vehicle that kills weeds by punching them into the ground. The Australian startup Agerris is developing mobile robots for monitoring and spraying crops. And Sunnyvale, Calif.–based Blue River Technology, acquired by John Deere in 2017, is building robotic machines for weeding large field crops like cotton and soybeans.

FarmWise says it has recently completed a redesign of its robots. The new version is better suited to withstand the harsh conditions often found in the field, including mud, dust, and water. The company is now expanding its staff as it prepares to deploy its robotic fleet in California, and eventually in other parts of the United States and abroad.

Boyer is confident that farms everywhere will one day be filled with robots—and that they’ll grow some of the best broccoli you’ve ever tasted.

Robot Gift Guide 2019

Post Syndicated from Erico Guizzo original https://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/home-robots/robot-gift-guide-2019

Welcome to the eighth edition of IEEE Spectrum’s Robot Gift Guide!

This year we’re featuring 15 robotic products that we think will make fantastic holiday gifts. As always, we tried to include a broad range of robot types and prices, focusing mostly on items released this year. (A reminder: While we provide links to places where you can buy these items, we’re not endorsing any in particular, and a little bit of research may result in better deals.)

If you need even more robot gift ideas, take a look at our past guides: 20182017, 2016201520142013, and 2012. Some of those robots are still great choices and might be way cheaper now than when we first posted about them. And if you have suggestions that you’d like to share, post a comment below to help the rest of us find the perfect robot gift.

How Boston Dynamics Is Redefining Robot Agility

Post Syndicated from Erico Guizzo original https://spectrum.ieee.org/robotics/humanoids/how-boston-dynamics-is-redefining-robot-agility

With their jaw-dropping agility and animal-like reflexes, Boston Dynamics’ bioinspired robots have always seemed to have no equal. But that preeminence hasn’t stopped the company from pushing its technology to new heights, sometimes literally. Its latest crop of legged machines can trudge up and down hills, clamber over obstacles, and even leap into the air like a gymnast. There’s no denying their appeal: Every time Boston Dynamics uploads a new video to YouTube, it quickly racks up millions of views. These are probably the first robots you could call Internet stars.

Boston Dynamics, once owned by Google’s parent company, Alphabet, and now by the Japanese conglomerate SoftBank, has long been secretive about its designs. Few publications have been granted access to its Waltham, Mass., headquarters, near Boston. But one morning this past August, IEEE Spectrum got in. We were given permission to do a unique kind of photo shoot that day. We set out to capture the company’s robots in action—running, climbing, jumping—by using high-speed cameras coupled with powerful strobes. The results you see on this page: freeze-frames of pure robotic agility.

We also used the photos to create interactive views, which you can explore online on our Robots Guide. These interactives let you spin the robots 360 degrees, or make them walk and jump on your screen.

Boston Dynamics has amassed a minizoo of robotic beasts over the years, with names like BigDog, SandFlea, and WildCat. When we visited, we focused on the two most advanced machines the company has ever built: Spot, a nimble quadruped, and Atlas, an adult-size humanoid.

Spot can navigate almost any kind of terrain while sensing its environment. Boston Dynamics recently made it available for lease, with plans to manufacture something like a thousand units per year. It envisions Spot, or even packs of them, inspecting industrial sites, carrying out hazmat missions, and delivering packages. And its YouTube fame has not gone unnoticed: Even entertainment is a possibility, with Cirque du Soleil auditioning Spot as a potential new troupe member.

“It’s really a milestone for us going from robots that work in the lab to these that are hardened for work out in the field,” Boston Dynamics CEO Marc Raibert says in an interview.

Our other photographic subject, Atlas, is Boston Dynamics’ biggest celebrity. This 150-centimeter-tall (4-foot-11-inch-tall) humanoid is capable of impressive athletic feats. Its actuators are driven by a compact yet powerful hydraulic system that the company engineered from scratch. The unique system gives the 80-kilogram (176-pound) robot the explosive strength needed to perform acrobatic leaps and flips that don’t seem possible for such a large humanoid to do. Atlas has inspired a string of parody videos on YouTube and more than a few jokes about a robot takeover.

While Boston Dynamics excels at making robots, it has yet to prove that it can sell them. Ever since its founding in 1992 as a spin-off from MIT, the company has been an R&D-centric operation, with most of its early funding coming from U.S. military programs. The emphasis on commercialization seems to have intensified after the acquisition by SoftBank, in 2017. SoftBank’s founder and CEO, Masayoshi Son, is known to love robots—and profits.

The launch of Spot is a significant step for Boston Dynamics as it seeks to “productize” its creations. Still, Raibert says his long-term goals have remained the same: He wants to build machines that interact with the world dynamically, just as animals and humans do. Has anything changed at all? Yes, one thing, he adds with a grin. In his early career as a roboticist, he used to write papers and count his citations. Now he counts YouTube views.

  • In the Spotlight

    Boston Dynamics designed Spot as a versatile mobile machine suitable for a variety of applications. The company has not announced how much Spot will cost, saying only that it is being made available to select customers, which will be able to lease the robot. A payload bay lets you add up to 14 kilograms of extra hardware to the robot’s back. One of the accessories that Boston Dynamics plans to offer is a 6-degrees-of-freedom arm, which will allow Spot to grasp objects and open doors.

  • Super Senses

    Spot’s hardware is almost entirely custom-designed. It includes powerful processing boards for control as well as sensor modules for perception. The ­sensors are located on the front, rear, and sides of the robot’s body. Each module consists of a pair of stereo cameras, a wide-angle camera, and a texture projector, which enhances 3D sensing in low light. The sensors allow the robot to use the navigation method known as SLAM, or simultaneous localization and mapping, to get around autonomously.

  • Stepping Up

    In addition to its autonomous behaviors, Spot can also be steered by a remote operator with a game-style controller. But even when in manual mode, the robot still exhibits a high degree of autonomy. If there’s an obstacle ahead, Spot will go around it. If there are stairs, Spot will climb them. The robot goes into these operating modes and then performs the related actions completely on its own, without any input from the operator. To go down a flight of stairs, Spot walks backward, an approach Boston Dynamics says provides greater stability.

  • Funky Feet

    Spot’s legs are powered by 12 custom DC motors, each geared down to provide high torque. The robot can walk forward, sideways, and backward, and trot at a top speed of 1.6 meters per second. It can also turn in place. Other gaits include crawling and pacing. In one wildly popular YouTube video, Spot shows off its fancy footwork by dancing to the pop hit “Uptown Funk.”

  • Robot Blood

    Atlas is powered by a hydraulic system consisting of 28 actuators. These actuators are basically cylinders filled with pressurized fluid that can drive a piston with great force. Their high performance is due in part to custom servo valves that are significantly smaller and lighter than the aerospace models that Boston Dynamics had been using in earlier designs. Though not visible from the outside, the innards of an Atlas are filled with these hydraulic actuators as well as the lines of fluid that connect them. When one of those lines ruptures, Atlas bleeds the hydraulic fluid, which happens to be red.

  • Next Generation

    The current version of Atlas is a thorough upgrade of the original model, which was built for the DARPA Robotics Challenge in 2015. The newest robot is lighter and more agile. Boston Dynamics used industrial-grade 3D printers to make key structural parts, giving the robot greater strength-to-weight ratio than earlier designs. The next-gen Atlas can also do something that its predecessor, famously, could not: It can get up after a fall.

  • Walk This Way

    To control Atlas, an operator provides general steering via a manual controller while the robot uses its stereo cameras and lidar to adjust to changes in the environment. Atlas can also perform certain tasks autonomously. For example, if you add special bar-code-type tags to cardboard boxes, Atlas can pick them up and stack them or place them on shelves.

  • Biologically Inspired

    Atlas’s control software doesn’t explicitly tell the robot how to move its joints, but rather it employs mathematical models of the underlying physics of the robot’s body and how it interacts with the environment. Atlas relies on its whole body to balance and move. When jumping over an obstacle or doing acrobatic stunts, the robot uses not only its legs but also its upper body, swinging its arms to propel itself just as an athlete would.

This article appears in the December 2019 print issue as “By Leaps and Bounds.”

This MIT Robot Wants to Use Your Reflexes to Walk and Balance

Post Syndicated from Erico Guizzo original https://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/humanoids/mit-little-hermes

MIT researchers have demonstrated a new kind of teleoperation system that allows a two-legged robot to “borrow” a human operator’s physical skills to move with greater agility. The system works a bit like those haptic suits from the Spielberg movie “Ready Player One.” But while the suits in the film were used to connect humans to their VR avatars, the MIT suit connects the operator to a real robot.

Boston Dynamics’ Spot Robot Dog Goes on Sale

Post Syndicated from Erico Guizzo original https://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/industrial-robots/boston-dynamics-spot-robot-dog-goes-on-sale

Boston Dynamics is announcing this morning that Spot, its versatile quadruped robot, is now for sale. The machine’s animal-like behavior regularly electrifies crowds at tech conferences, and like other Boston Dynamics’ robots, Spot is a YouTube sensation whose videos amass millions of views.

Now anyone interested in buying a Spot—or a pack of them—can go to the company’s website and submit an order form. But don’t pull out your credit card just yet. Spot may cost as much as a luxury car, and it is not really available to consumers. The initial sales, described as an “early adopter program,” is targeting businesses. Boston Dynamics wants to find customers in select industries and help them deploy Spots in real-world scenarios.

Universal Robots Introduces Its Strongest Robotic Arm Yet

Post Syndicated from Erico Guizzo original https://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/industrial-robots/universal-robots-introduces-its-strongest-robotic-arm-yet

Universal Robots, already the dominant force in collaborative robots, is flexing its muscles in an effort to further expand its reach in the cobots market. The Danish company is introducing today the UR16e, its strongest robotic arm yet, with a payload capability of 16 kilograms (35.3 lbs), reach of 900 millimeters, and repeatability of +/- 0.05 mm. Universal says the new “heavy duty payload cobot” will allow customers to automate a broader range of processes, including packaging and palletizing, nut and screw driving, and high-payload and CNC machine tending.