Robot Videos: Festo's SmartBird, Social Robots, and Autonomous Cars

There's no better way to start off the week than with a trio of fascinating robot videos, each of which is easily educational enough that you should be able to convince yourself (and anyone else) that watching them is definitely not procrastinating. 

This first video is a follow-up to Festo's SmartBird robotic seagull that we posted about last month. Creating a heavier than air fully functional robotic bird is no small feat, and this 17 minute video takes you through the development process, including lots of juicy details and behind the scenes test footage:


Cynthia Breazeal gave a seminar at CMU's Robotics Institute on "The Social Side of Personal Robotics." As you may have noticed, robots tend to be pretty lousy at interacting socially with humans, largely because robots have a hard time understanding what's going on inside our heads. I can totally relate to this because I have a hard time understanding what's going on inside other people's heads too, and if it's difficult for me, it's practically impossible for a robot.

Dr. Breazeal talks about new capabilities that her lab is developing to allow robots to employ a higher degree of insight (if you want to call it that) into how humans think, to enable robots to interact with us more naturally and more successfully. For example, the seminar includes video of experiments with Leonardo, where the robot demonstrates how it can understand not just what a human wants, but also what a human believes, which allows the robot to be much more... Well, I'm not sure what else to say but "insightful." Other experiments show how Leonardo can successfully pick up on unknown rules based on behavioral feedback, which is a skill that could hypothetically be extended to abstract social situations.

This talk is just over an hour long, but it's definitely worth watching in its entirety:


Lastly, we've got a (rather brief) TED Talk from Sebastian Thrun, who's been developing autonomous cars at Stanford and, more recently, Google. I never get tired of hearing his vision for the future where we all ride around in safe and efficient robotic vehicles, but it's somewhat ironic that no matter how much safer autonomous cars are over human drivers, it's the risk of accidents that's keeping them out of the hands of consumers. We have a ways to go both socially and legally before sharing the road with robots is going to be acceptable, but there are ways to ease us into it that may help to make the transition both smoother and quicker.

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