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Hummingbirds vs. Micro UAVs: Who's the Best Flyer?

Hummingbirds have been optimizing their design for something like 42 million years. Humans have been optimizing our designs for robots that try to fly like hummingbirds for, um, somewhat less time.* So it's not a surprise that hummingbirds are better fliers than robotic microcopters, but it is a surprise that we're actually getting close in efficiency, according to a new study published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface

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Korean Shipbuilder Testing Industrial Exoskeletons for Future Cybernetic Workforce

Robots are stronger than humans. In situations where strength matters a lot, this often makes robots better than humans, at least for some specific tasks. However, robots are also dumber than humans, so making those super strong robots do what you want them to do can be a time consuming, expensive, and often utterly impossible task.

Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering (DSME) wants to combine humans and robots in the most direct possible way, by allowing robots to swallow humans whole. We're talking about exoskeletons, of course: we've seen them in the market for medical uses (like rehabilitation), but DSME just wants them to endow human workers with massive amounts of brute strength.

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NASA Announces Next Mars Rover, and Opportunity Sets Distance Record

You know what the most amazing robot ever is? The Opportunity Mars rover. It's not the fastest, or the strongest, or the cleverest. But, in terms of the magnitude of things that it's done that are otherwise too dull, dirty, or dangerous for humans to do, it absolutely wins. Thing one is getting to Mars. Thing two is doing science on Mars. Thing three (and this is the big one) is still doing science on Mars.

Opportunity's longevity has surprised even its creators. In fact, during the time the rover has been doing science on Mars, NASA designed, built, and landed a bigger and more powerful rover, Curiosity, on Mars. Now NASA has decided on the science payload for a third rover program that is expected to launch to Mars in 2020, and they've just announced what it'll be able to do that previous rovers can't.

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Robocopters Haul Tons of Stuff in Afghanistan, Return Home Victorious

In December of 2011, the U.S. Marines took delivery of a pair of Kaman K-MAX helicopters that Lockheed Martin had modified for autonomous cargo delivery. But after the robot helicopters were sent to Afghanistan, we heard nothing more about the program. Until now.

Apparently the testing program was extraordinarily successful, which is good news for the U.S. military's plan to replace as many humans as possible with robots.

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Scholars Say No to FAA's Model Aircraft Regulations

Last week, a group of researchers, teachers, and administrators from 16 institutions of higher learning including Harvard, Duke, and Stanford, registered their objections to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration's recent “Interpretation of the Special Rule for Model Aircraft.” They did that by submitting, with the assistance of counsel, a 13-page letter in response to the FAA’s request for public comments.

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Soccer Robots Score on Humans at RoboCup: GOOOOOOAL!

We posted a lot of footage from RoboCup 2014 last Friday, but we didn't post any footage from the final game in the tournament, where the winning mid-size robot team plays against a bunch of not-entirely inept humans. Arguably, this is the most exciting game of all, because it gives a sense of what the current state-of-the-art in robotic soccer is, and how it stacks up to a team of moderately talented squishy bipeds.

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Can Winograd Schemas Replace Turing Test for Defining Human-Level AI?

Earlier this year, a chatbot called Eugene Goostman "beat" a Turing Test for artificial intelligence as part of a contest organized by a U.K. university. Almost immediately, it became obvious that rather than proving that a piece of software had achieved human-level intelligence, all that this particular competition had shown was that a piece of software had gotten fairly adept at fooling humans into thinking that they were talking to another human, which is very different from a measure of the ability to "think." (In fact, some observers didn't think the bot was very clever at all.) 

Clearly, a better test is needed, and we may have one, in the form of a type of question called a Winograd schema that's easy for a human to answer, but a serious challenge for a computer.

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Hexapod Robot Gets Even Better at Being Indestructible

Last year, we wrote about a hexapod robot that could teach itself to walk after you chopped its leg off. It was awesome. It still is awesome, because if you have any experience with robots, you know that they malfunction almost continuously. Last week, we saw some updated results from the same researchers, and after perusing both papers with much scratching-of-heads and stabbing-out-of-eyes, we've figured out what's new and exciting for 2014.

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Video Friday: Jibo Update, N Robot Arms, and RoboCup

World Cup may be over, but anyone who stuck around in Brazil for an extra week or two got to experience a robotic version of the same thing. RoboCup isn't quite yet at the level that it's aiming for, which is to (by the middle of this century) field "a team of fully autonomous humanoid robot soccer players [that] shall win a soccer game, complying with the official rules of FIFA, against the winner of the most recent World Cup." As you'll see, these robots have a long ways to go, as there's a lot of falling down but zero moaning about it. Someone needs to program NAO to reflexively clutch its ankle.

All that, and more, await you in this week's Video Friday.

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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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Canada
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Tokyo, Japan
 

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