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Spectacular Video Shows Flyability's Gimball Drone Exploring Ice Caves

A glacier crevasse has to be one of the worst places you could ever decide to fly a drone. It’s deep, dark, narrow, windy, and full of all kinds of nasty pointy bits, any one of which could collapse onto you at any time. This is also why you’d never want to enter one yourself, and why there aren’t any robots that are really able to go down into them to explore: it’s just horribly dangerous. From time to time, though, humans fall into crevasses, and then other humans have to (first) find them and then (hopefully) rescue them.

Last year, Lausanne, Switzerland-based startup Flyability partnered with the mountain rescue team at Zermatt Glacier in the Swiss Alps to offer them the services of Gimball, which is quite possibly the only robot that doesn’t care even a little bit whether you drop it into the bowels of a glacier. The drone took its HD camera and powerful lighting system deep into the ice, and came back out alive with video to prove it.

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Toshiba Prepares Amphibious Robot for Fukushima Reactor Pool

There’s still a huge amount of radioactive waste cleanup to do at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan. Some of that cleanup can be done by careful humans. And there’s some that’s too dangerous for humans, but not quite dangerous enough to dissuade robots. Clearing the fuel rods out of the pool in reactor 3 is one of those tasks, and Toshiba has built a robot to tackle it.

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Video Friday: 100-Drone Spectacle, Autonomous Car vs. Snow, and Robot With Machine Gun

Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your weaponized Automaton bloggers. We’ll be also posting a weekly calendar of upcoming robotics events for the next few months; here’s what we have so far (send us your events!):

ASU Rehabilitation Robotics Workshop – February 8-9, 2016 – Tempe, Arizona, USA
The Future of Rescue Simulation Workshop – February 29-4, 2016 – Leiden, Netherlands
HRI 2016 – March 7-10, 2016 – Christchurch, New Zealand
WeRobot 2016 – April 1-2, 2016 – Miami, Fla., USA
National Robotics Week – April 2-10, 2016 – United States
AISB HRI Symposium – April 5-6, 2016 – Sheffield, United Kingdom


Let us know if you have suggestions for next week, and enjoy today’s videos.

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IHMC's ATLAS Robot Learning to Do Some Chores

Since their flawless (well, almost flawless) second place finish at the DRC Finals, Team IHMC has been keeping their ATLAS robot busy. Busy doing what? Chores. Because if you have a multi-million dollar robot from the U.S. Government, you might as well get it to sweep up your Nerf darts with a broom.

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Steerable, Motorized Cyborg Spermbots Take on Infertility

Traditionally, human procreation is all about accuracy through volume. Fire enough sperm at an egg (200-500 million is about average for a single, um, event), and if you’re lucky, a few of them (maybe a hundred or so) will eventually figure out the right thing to do, and one of those might end up leading to a successful fertilization. These are horrible odds, and it’s vaguely amazing that we manage to keep on making more of ourselves at all.

One futuristic approach (which has already been adopted by some of the more primitive insects) is to do away with the hundreds of millions of sperm, and rely on just one to get the job done. If you’re going to do that, your one sperm needs to be incredibly awesome, and thanks to science, it can be. Researchers from the Institute for Integrative Nanosciences at IFW Dresden in Germany have successfully tested tiny, magnetically-driven power suits for individual sperm that can turn them into steerable cyborg “spermbots” that can be remote controlled all the way to the egg.

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Let’s Bring Rosie Home: 5 Challenges We Need to Solve for Home Robots

This is a guest post. The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not represent positions of IEEE Spectrum or the IEEE.

Science fiction authors love the robot sidekick. R2-D2, Commander Data, and KITT—just to name a few—defined “Star Wars,” “Star Trek,” and “Knight Rider,” respectively, just as much as their human actors. While science has brought us many of the inventions dreamed of in sci-fi shows, one major human activity has remained low tech and a huge source of frustration: household chores. Why can’t we have more robots helping us with our domestic tasks? That’s a question that many roboticists and investors (myself included) have long been asking ourselves. Recently, we’ve seen some promising developments in the home robotics space, including Jibo’s successful financing and SoftBank’s introduction of Pepper. Still, a capable, affordable robotic helper—like Rosie, the robot maid from “The Jetsons”—remains a big technical and commercial challenge. Should robot makers focus on designs that are extensions of our smartphones (as Jibo seems to be doing), or do we need a clean-sheet approach towards building these elusive bots?

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One-Eyed Bug Vision Helps Drones Land

In an effort to build—and control—ever smaller drones, researchers have been looking at how insects navigate. Insects use a technique called optical flow, based on the apparent speed of objects passing by in their field of vision. In fact, humans use optical flow to give us a sense of how fast we’re going when we’re driving. 

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Video Friday: Kicking a Robot, TV Drone Crash, and Supernumerary Lightsabers

Last week was a holiday, and we’re at CES this week, but nothing can stop the robot videos. Things should be back to normal around here next week (we hope). Let us know if you have videos or events to suggest, and enjoy today’s Video Friday selection!

ASSISIbf Winter School – January 12-14, 2016 – Lausanne, Switzerland
ASU Rehabilitation Robotics Workshop – February 8-9, 2016 – Tempe, Arizona, USA
The Future of Rescue Simulation Workshop – February 29-4, 2016 – Leiden, Netherlands
HRI 2016 – March 7-10, 2016 – Christchurch, New Zealand
WeRobot 2016 – April 1-2, 2016 – Miami, Fla., USA
National Robotics Week – April 2-10, 2016 – United States
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Cooki: a Desktop Robotic Chef That Does Everything

CES has only officially been open for like 5 minutes, and already we’ve found something too awesome not to share immediately: a cooking robot from a startup called Sereneti that can handle everything for you, from cooking to stirring to adding ingredients at the right time. 

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Toyota AI Team Hires James Kuffner from Google Robotics, Will Have Rodney Brooks as Adviser

Toyota revealed more details about its ambitious AI and robotics effort yesterday at CES in Las Vegas. Dr. Gill Pratt, who leads the effort as CEO of the newly formed Toyota Research Institute (TRI), announced an impressive line-up of engineers and executives to head its technical leadership team and advisory board. Among the hires is James Kuffner, who until recently led Google’s robotics program and will focus on cloud computing at TRI. The advisers include notable technologists like Rodney Brooks from Rethink Robotics and Marc Benioff from Salesforce.

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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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