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Squishy Pink Robot Makes Explosive Jumps

Every time we show up to one of these IEEE robotics conferences, we're excited to see things that are new and amazing. We never know what it's going to be, exactly, but this robot right here is the perfect example: something crazy and innovative that also manages to push the bounds of robotics research, with the added bonus that it uses explosions to move. And it looks really, really weird.

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MIT Cheetah Robot Bounds Off Tether, Outdoors

On Friday, we posted a video of Sangbae Kim (from the MIT Biomimetic Lab) getting drenched in the name of ALS. The robot doing the drenching was MIT's Cheetah, but it was much, much different than than the version of Cheetah that we were familiar with from last year, and we speculated that the new version might be out running untethered.

We were wrong: it's not running untethered, it's bounding untethered. And unconstrained. And outdoors!

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Clearpath Hits Husky With Shrink Ray, Announces Jackal UGV

Last year, Clearpath Robotics though to themselves, "Hey, Husky is cool, but let's make something bigger, because bigger is awesome." So they made Grizzly, an 850-kilogram super size, super strength unmanned ground vehicle (UGV). This year, Clearpath Robotics thought to themselves, "Hey, Husky is cool, but let's make something smaller, because smaller is awesome." So they made Jackal, a 17-kilogram bite size, affordable little UGV that won't utterly destroy your research lab if you try to drive it indoors.

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Video Friday: Massive Manipulator, Soft Exoskeleton, and Jetpack Augmentation

Tomorrow, at a ridiculously early hour, we're flying to Chicago to cover the IEEE International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS). WOOHOO!

As we've mentioned, IROS 2014 is going to be unlike any IEEE conference that we've covered so far. Instead of eight or ten or twelve tracks of researchers giving PowerPoint presentations nearly non-stop, simultaneously, from what feels like 4 a.m. to 9 p.m., slowly killing us (with, um, happiness) over the course of three days, now everything is interactive sessions. This means that instead of relentless PowerPoint in overcrowded rooms, there will be a bunch of roboticists with tables, monitors, and (we hope) robots that we can actually, you know, interact with. It's a bit of a risk, since IROS has never tried this before, but we're hoping that it'll result in more time for us to talk to people, and more chances for the people actually doing the interesting robot stuff to tell us what they're up to directly.

So, you have that to look forward to next week, and so do we, assuming that we don't collapse by Wednesday.

Usually, we collapse.

But that hasn't happened yet! So, videos!

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Korean Robotics Company Yujin Developing Food Delivery Robot

Robots are good for all kinds of things, but almost all of those things (with a few exceptions) are not things that are intended to make the lives of lazy humans (on an individual basis) better. Like, immediately better. As in, "bring me a sandwich" better.

Yujin Robot, perhaps best known for (if you live in Asia) vacuums or (if you live in ROS) Turtlebot 2, is now testing out a food delivery robot that's safe enough, and affordable enough, to operate autonomously in care facilities.

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Humanoid Robot Nao Learns to Drive Its Own Car

Robots have proven to be not that great at driving cars. Robot cars are just fine at driving themselves, but that's much different than putting a robot (humanoid or otherwise) behind the wheel of a vehicle designed for humans.

The very fancy and expensive robots at the DARPA Robotics Challenge Trials had a tough time trying to make it work, but for Aldebaran's humanoid Nao, it's a cinch, with his brand new little kid (or little robot) sized electric BMW Z4 from RobotsLab, a seller of educational robots based in San Francisco, Calif.

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Five DO's and DON'Ts on Building Your Robotics Startup

It is a great time to start a robotics company. Cheap components, open-source code, and accessible options for contract manufacturing empower roboticists to focus on designing great robots instead of sweating over non-core details. Indeed, we're seeing innovative robotics entrepreneurs introducing beautiful, functional robots. Unfortunately, many of these startups will likely have a difficult journey leveraging their robots towards building attractive businesses—businesses that venture capitalists like myself would want to be shareholders of. Last month I discussed myths and realities of robotics technology. Today, I present a short list of do's and don'ts for robot innovators, based on what I've been seeing in this industry as it grows and matures.

And if you have your own collection of do's and don'ts, please share it in the comments below. 

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Freaky Soft Robot Walks Through Fire and Ice

A few years back, we wrote about this squishy little air-powered legged robot from Harvard with no electronics or moving parts that you could beat down with a hammer and it would still try and kill you keep walking. The 2011 version of the robot was tethered to external air compressors, but the newest one brings all of its power and control onboard, and you can no longer kill it with fire. Uh oh.

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Video Friday: Ollie Rolling, RoboRaven Flying, TurtleBot Curling

Dyson sure did deliver this week. They managed to put together a fun little teaser video with just the right amount of truthiness mixed in, and followed it up with an excitingly unique consumer robot. Is it too much to ask that we get this sort of thing every single week from now on?

Probably, yeah.

The consumer robotics isn't quite at the level of, I dunno, the useless app market, where there are new products releases so relentlessly that they make me want to push that scary looking "Destroy Universe" button on my Android phone. What, you don't have one of those? Weird. But anyway, we have hope that one day, we will have the privilege of making announcements about new robots that you can buy much more frequently then we do now.

And then it'll be time to retire! But we're not there yet, so on to Video Friday.

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Why Are Google and Amazon Not Using Drone Airplanes?

Last week Google pulled back the curtain on its Project Wing, an effort to develop small drones that can deliver packages. The notion of being able to deliver small payloads in this way has been on lots of people’s minds since December of last year when Amazon revealed its own efforts to whisk packages to its customers using small drones, a service-to-be that it calls Prime Air. Even before that, the Silicon Valley startup MatterNet announced its plans to use similar technology to help move materials around places lacking good roads. And one San Francisco company claims it will offer such a service very soon to residents in urgent need of pharmacy supplies in the city's Mission district, despite the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration's position that commercial use of even the smallest drones is forbidden.

Could such drone-based delivery services really be practical?

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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

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

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