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This Robot Makes Doctor Visits Less Terrifying for Kids

Nobody (almost nobody) likes getting stabbed with needles, and kids seem to especially hate it. Getting vaccinated is an unpleasant process for everyone concerned, including the kids, their anxious parents, and nurses and physicians who are just trying to do their job. There are ways to coach all parties involved to be better at dealing with scary and painful procedures, and that’s where robots might help. Robots, with the proper programming, have proven (like, peer-reviewed proven) that they can be very effective pain coaches.

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Disney Robot Draws Giant Sketches on the Beach

We’ve seen robots drawing and painting before. But Beachbot does art on a whole different scale. Developed by a team from Disney Research Zurich and ETH Zurich, the robot can autonomously create giant sand drawings by dragging a rake-like tool on a beach.

Paul Beardsley, a principal research scientist at Disney Research Zurich, says he wanted to build an artist robot that could keep creating new artwork. Instead of using paint, he wanted to explore a less permanent medium. “Sand drawing is perfect because it’s an infinitely reuseable canvas,” he says.

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Sepios: ETH Zurich's Robot Cuttlefish

As much as we enjoyed all of the robots performing the ETH Zurich Autonomous Systems Lab’s video, one robot in particular stood out because it didn’t look familiar. You may have spotted it too, at about 1:30: a robot with four orthogonal fins called Sepios. We did some hardcore journalistic research (consisting primarily of a Google search) and found a website on it, along with a very cool video of the robot swimming in the ocean.

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FAA: Merry Christmas, and Use Caution and Common Sense When Flying Your New Drone

On Thursday, way too many kids (and adults) will likely find themselves to be the proud owner of a fancy new drone that they have no idea how to fly. Before all kinds of disasters inevitably happen, the FAA in partnership with AUVSI (the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International), the AMA (Academy of Model Aeronautics), and the Small UAV Coalition has launched a website called KnowBeforeYouFly.org. It’s a reiteration of the current set of rules governing use of drones by the public, and it can be summarized thusly: when flying a drone, use caution and common sense.

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Video Friday: Humanoid Waltz, Robot Sumo, and Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays from all of us at IEEE Spectrum! Whether you choose to celebrate Robanzaa/KwanzaaRobonnukah/Hannukah, Xmas/Christmas, or any other robot/human holiday, we trust that your next few weeks will be filled with cheer, merriment, some amount of indulgence, and (if you’re good) maybe even some gifts

We may be taking a day or two off here and there over the next few weeks, but we’ll be back in force for the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in early January. Usually, robots don’t headline at CES, so we’re not expecting anything big, but most of the time there are at least one or two worthwhile surprises.

Anyway, we’re not the only ones excited for the holidays, and we’ll start off Video Friday with some particularly festive robots.


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Japanese Company Creating Robotic Action Figures

Action figures that pose themselves may be the next big thing in Japan’s billion dollar plastic model industry. Speecys, a robotics company founded in 2001 by Tomoaki Kasuga (following a stint working on Sony’s robot dog Aibo), has unveiled what it calls the world’s first “Motion Figure” system.

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RoboSimian Beats Out Surrogate for JPL's DRC Finals Spot

We were very impressed with the creative design and solid performance that JPL’s RoboSimian demonstrated last year at the DRC Trials. But although RoboSimian was able to swing from trees and topple human society much more effectively than previous models, it seems that JPL itself wasn’t entirely sold on the optimalness (is that a word?) of its own design: immediately after the trials ended, they started building a new (and slightly more traditional) robot called Surrogate. Now, after six months of testing, the results are in.

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Play With a Swarm of Robots at NYC's Museum of Mathematics

Self-organizing robot swarms can be found in research laboratories around the world. Biologists like them because they can give insight into the group activities of animals, such as flocking, while roboticists like them because they open the door to accomplishing tasks without the need to program the exact individual behavior of dozens—or even hundreds or thousands—of robots.

Now anyone visiting New York City can interact with a robot swarm. MoMath, the National Museum of Mathematics (which bills itself as “the coolest thing that ever happened to math”) unveiled its new Robot Swarm exhibit yesterday morning. While getting journalists to attend an 8:30 a.m. briefing without the promise of a copious supply of free coffee (and maybe some of those mini Danish pastries) is a feat in itself, creating a multirobot exhibit that is appealing to visitors—and tough enough to withstand them walking all over it—is the real achievement.

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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.
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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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