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How Drones Can Help Save Elephants and Rhinos from Poachers

Last year, 25,000 elephants were killed by poachers throughout the African continent. In South Africa, more than 1,200 rhinos were slayed, a record year. The vast open expanses and dense undergrowth make it easy for illegal hunters to elude the authorities on the ground. Recently, though, conservationists have found a technology they believe could help them turn the tables on poachers: drones.

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Festo's Fantastical Insectoid Robots Include Bionic Ants and Butterflies

About this time every year, alarmingly close to April 1, German automation company Festo announces its newest animal-inspired robots. Last year it was a kangaroo (we had to double check that it wasn’t an April Fool’s joke), and before that, a seagull, dragonfly, and floating air jellies, among other cool things. For 2015, Festo is introducing two new insectoid robots: cooperative ants and swarming butterflies.

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Ollie the Baby Otter Is a Therapy Robot That's Actually Affordable

In MIT’s course 2.009 (“Product Engineering Processes”), teams of undergrads have to come up with an idea for a product, figure out if it can be commercially successful, make a prototype, and then wrap everything up with a pitch presentation at the end. In 2013, one of the teams decided to make a therapy robot to help with anxiety and depression in dementia patients. It’s a cute little otter, and its name is Ollie.

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New TurtleBot Tutorials Make Robotics and ROS More Accessible Than Ever

As some of you might remember, we got one of the very first TurtleBot 2s from Clearpath Robotics. It was awesome. We were going to put together a big long series of tutorials and stuff, and we got started by explaining how to install Ubuntu and ROS, even if you know as little about either of those things as we did.

But, as awesome as it was to get a very early TurtleBot 2, we ran into a few bugs that made things like networking and navigating abnormally difficult, and to be completely honest with you, we got stuck. Since then, the TurtleBot software has matured significantly, and from the sound of things, getting your little robot to actually, you know, do stuff is way easier than it used to be.

Mark Silliman, Austin Meyers, and Melissa Eaton have posted an excellent set of beginner TurtleBot tutorials, starting from scratch and ending with (hopefully) your TurtleBot bringing you coffee that you can order with an app on your phone.

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Video Friday: Sneaky Humanoid, ROS Hexapod, and Beautiful RoboRavens

It’s been a busy week this week, full of new robots from both Universal Robots and Rethink Robotics. It’s not a coincidence that both of those announcements happened this week: Automate, “North America’s Broadest Automation Event” (whatever that means) kicks off in Chicago on Monday. We wouldn’t be surprised to hear about a few more new industrial or manufacturing robots over the next few days, and at the very least, some cool new demo videos should pop up. If they do, we’ll have them for you, but for this week, you’ll just have to settle for all the other cool videos we’ve dug up. Enjoy!

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Sawyer: Rethink Robotics Unveils New Robot

Earlier this week, we went up to Boston to see something new from Rethink Robotics. They wouldn’t tell us what (not even a hint), but we bought plane tickets anyway, because Rodney Brooks told us that it wasn’t just some slightly different version of Baxter. And it wasn’t: it’s a completely different robot, stuffing all of the adaptive, collaborative technology that makes Baxter unique into a form factor that’s smaller, faster, stronger, and more precise.

This is Sawyer.

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Quadrotor With Wheels Can Drive Straight Up Walls

Most wall-climbing robots that we’re familiar with use one of just a few different techniques to stick to vertical surfaces. Generally, they’re either using magnets, vacuums, or the recently popular gecko foot adhesive pads. There are other more exotic systems as well, like microspines, cloth grabbing, elecrostatics, and hot glue.

No matter what technique you use, you’re always taking a risk with a climbing robot that doesn’t depend on external infrastructure: if your climbing system of choice ever fails, you robot will very shortly find itself transformed into a sad little pile of brokenness, thanks to gravity. To be safe, your climbing robot needs to be able to fly, too. 

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Universal Robots UR3 Arm Is Small and Nimble, Helps to Build Copies of Itself

This Danish family is growing. Universal Robots, based in Odense, Denmark, is announcing today a new addition to its line of industrial robotic arms. The new arrival is called UR3, and it’s smaller than the company’s earlier models, UR5 and UR10. Compared to its older siblings, the little UR3 looks light and nimble—and even “cute,” as one observer described it.

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MIT's DragonBot Evolving to Better Teach Kids

MIT introduced Kombusto, their dragon robot designed to teach stuff to preschoolers, back in 2011. Since then, the Personal Robots Group has been doing a substantial amount of research and experimentation to figure out how best to utilize the robot to productively interact with children. We have some updates on how it’s been going, along with a look at the brand new robot that MIT is developing to work with kids for months at a time.

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Automaton

IEEE Spectrum's award-winning robotics blog, featuring news, articles, and videos on robots, humanoids, automation, artificial intelligence, and more.
Contact us:  e.guizzo@ieee.org

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Erico Guizzo
New York, N.Y.
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Evan Ackerman
Berkeley, Calif.
 
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Jason Falconer
Canada
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Angelica Lim
Tokyo, Japan
 

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