It's December. December means holidays, December means vacation, December means that you should call in sick today, sink into your couch, make yourself a mug of hot cocoa, and watch robot videos until everything you see looks like it's made out of a slightly less than infinite number of tiny little ones and zeros. Unfortunately, the only part of that that we can help you with is providing those robot videos, although we did manage to find this cocoa recipe from a blog that's supposedly by authored by some sort of robotic chef. So, there you go.
Somehow, and I have no idea how, this little reconfigurable robot from MIT snuck past us at IROS a few months back:
Those motors are actually electropermanent magnets, and by cleverly switching them on and off such that their fields add to or cancel each other, the robot can efficiently fold itself into all sorts of shapes. The overall concept is that the robot is effectively one-dimensional, and with a long enough one-dimensional robot, math says that you can fold it (or have it fold itself) into absolutely any 3D shape that you want.
I'll be honest with you: I'm not much for ballet. But throw some ABB industrial arms into the mix, and all of a sudden it gets a heck of a lot better:
ABB's SafeMove software does an excellent job of making sure that no accidental decapitations occur.
[ Human Interface ]
KUBI is a telepresence platform that's been distilled down to the absolute bare essentials: it's a robotic neck with a tablet on it. As the KUBI designers explain, "it turned out that 90% of the cost was in the ability to move around, and 90% of the value was in the ability to look around a room." So that's what they built KUBI to do, plain and simple and rather lovely in a minimalist sort of way.
You can find KUBI on Indiegogo for $199, and if it's successfully funded, look for production and shipping to start happening by April of next year.
[ KUBI ]
The Robot Operating System (ROS) turned five years old last month. ROS been growing a huge amount over the last several years, and there are now more than 90 different sorts of robots who use it to do what they do. There are now robots running ROS in Antarctica. Nowhere is safe. And here's an extra special anniversary video to celebrate:
[ Willow Garage ]
You know what robot runs ROS? LittleDog. This video of LittleDog being teleoperated to use a keyboard via Kinect was uploaded from the UCSB Robotics Lab over a year ago, but we just stumbled across it, and (like any video featuring LittleDog) it's been judged sufficiently adorable to post.
[ UCSB Robotics ]
Slightly less well-behaved than LittleDog is Nao, especially when you put him behind the wheel of a Nao-sized car. It's not that he's a bad driver, 'cause he's obviously not, it's just that he's teaching little kids to take candy from strange driving robots, and that's a very bad idea to put into their heads.
[ NAOCar ]
Shifting gears to military robotics, Europe's nEUROn stealth drone prototype completed its first test flight last Saturday.
Not a bad landing, I'd say. Although, I still find it equal parts awesome and freaky that things like this exist and are flying around all by themselves.
[ nEUROn ]
The Army has been messing around with a Blackhawk helicopter that they've taught to fly itself around at low altitude without crashing into anything, using what appears to be some sort of absolutely beastly LIDAR system:
I love how these guys (who I think are the pilots, sitting in the helicopter hands-off for safety and communicating with the engineers) have pretty much no idea what their aircraft is going to do next. But the robocopter doesn't care, and it just goes about its business, nimbly avoiding hills and trees and coming to a stable hover over a clearing.
Via [ PopSci ]
We'll wrap up today with this overview video from Fabtech 2012, an industrial robotics trade show. We weren't there, but Robotiq was, and they've got footage of all kinds of robotic workers, including Baxter good-naturedly not crushing a human who gets in its way:
[ Robotiq ]