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NASA JPL's PUFFER, or Pop-Up Flat Folding Explorer Robot, is a small, origami-inspired robot for space exploration

PUFFER: JPL's Pop-Up Exploring Robot

It costs a stupendous amount of money to send something from the surface of Earth to the surface of Mars, and there are severe limits on the volume and mass that you can send at any one time. In order to stuff the maximum amount of science into the minimum amount of space, NASA has had to get creative, with landers and rovers designed to be lightweight and foldable.

At NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in Pasadena, Calif., engineers have long been trying to cram as much robot as possible into the absolute minimum amount of space, and a team of roboticists there recently showed us their latest creation: PUFFER, the Pop-Up Flat Folding Explorer Robot. It’s designed to pack down nearly flat for transport, and then re-expand on site to investigate all the places a bigger rover can’t quite reach.

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The Planar Elliptical Runner robot developed by IHMC.

Video Friday: Running Robot, Dog vs. Roomba, and BionicCobot

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

AUVSI Xponential – May 8-11, 2017 – Dallas, Texas, USA
AAMAS 2017 – May 8-12, 2017 – Sao Paulo, Brazil
Austech – May 9-12, 2017 – Melbourne, Australia
Innorobo – May 16-18, 2017 – Paris, France
Midwest Robotics Workshop – May 18-19, 2017 – Chicago, Ill., USA
NASA Robotic Mining Competition – May 22-26, 2017 – NASA KSC, Fla., USA
IEEE ICRA – May 29-3, 2017 – Singapore
University Rover Challenge – June 1-13, 2017 – Hanksville, Utah, USA
IEEE World Haptics – June 6-9, 2017 – Munich, Germany
NASA SRC Virtual Competition – June 12-16, 2017 – Online
ICCV 2017 – June 13-16, 2017 – Venice, Italy
RoboBoat 2017 – June 20-20, 2017 – Daytona Beach, Fl., USA
Aerial Robotics International Research Symposium – June 21-22, 2017 – Toronto, Canada
Hamlyn Symposium on Medical Robotics – June 25-28, 2017 – London, England
Autonomous Systems World – June 26-27, 2017 – Berlin, Germany
RoboUniverse Seoul – June 28-30, 2017 – Seoul, Korea
RobotCraft 2017 – July 3-3, 2017 – Coimbra, Portugal

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


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A snake robot slides up a set of stairs.

Demo: A Versatile Snake Robot That Masters Tough Terrain and Climbs Metal Walls

Last week, a visitor slithered through the IEEE Spectrum office.

The robotics company Sarcos had brought around its new snake robot, the Guardian S, to show off its moves. While it performed its tricks—shimmying sideways, rolling over, rearing up, and even sliding its magnetized body straight up a metal door—an impressed staff member mentioned that his son would love to have a snakebot to play with. “We’re taking orders if you want one!” said Sarcos CEO Ben Wolff. “Only $60,000.”

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TurtleBot 3, an open-source robot that runs ROS

Hands-on With TurtleBot 3, a Powerful Little Robot for Learning ROS

South Korean robotics company Robotis and the Open Source Robotics Foundation (OSRF) announced the TurtleBot 3 at ROSCon last year in Seoul. We got to see a wide variety of prototypes, but Robotis was still in the middle of figuring out exactly what TurtleBot 3 was going to look like and what hardware it would include. The company told us at the time that they wanted the robot to be as open, modular, and customizable as possible, and we’ve been waiting excitedly to see what they came up with.

Today, Robotis is finally ready to share the brand-new TurtleBot 3 with the world. And, surprise, there are actually two TurtleBot 3 models: Burger and Waffle, so named because that’s kind of what each of them looks like, if you’re willing to stretch your imagination a bit:

A few weeks ago, Robotis shipped us test units of the two models, and after putting them together and playing a bit with them, we’ve got an in-depth review for you along with all the info about price and availability.

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Audi factory collaborative robot

Video Friday: Friendly Cobot, Drone Swarms, and Robotic Recycling

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

AUVSI Xponential – May 8-11, 2017 – Dallas, Texas, USA
AAMAS 2017 – May 8-12, 2017 – Sao Paulo, Brazil
Austech – May 9-12, 2017 – Melbourne, Australia
Innorobo – May 16-18, 2017 – Paris, France
Midwest Robotics Workshop – May 18-19, 2017 – Chicago, IL, USA
NASA Robotic Mining Competition – May 22-26, 2017 – NASA KSC, Fla., USA
IEEE ICRA – May 29-3, 2017 – Singapore
University Rover Challenge – June 1-13, 2017 – Hanksville, Utah, USA
IEEE World Haptics – June 6-9, 2017 – Munich, Germany
NASA SRC Virtual Competition – June 12-16, 2017 – Online
ICCV 2017 – June 13-16, 2017 – Venice, Italy
RoboBoat 2017 – June 20-20, 2017 – Daytona Beach, Fl., USA
Aerial Robotics International Research Symposium – June 21-22, 2017 – Toronto, ON, Canada
Hamlyn Symposium on Medical Robotics – June 25-28, 2017 – London, England
Autonomous Systems World – June 26-27, 2017 – Berlin, Germany

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


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MIT Construction Robot

Robotic Construction Platform Creates Large Buildings on Demand

Construction seems like an industry that, were I still living in Silicon Valley, I would be tempted to call “ripe for disruption.” Researchers at the MIT Media Lab agree, pointing out in a paper just published in Science Robotics that construction “relies on traditional fabrication technologies that are dangerous, slow, and energy-intensive.” Hey, sounds like a job for some robots, right?

The Media Lab’s paper introduces the Digital Construction Platform (DCP), which is “an automated construction system capable of customized on-site fabrication of architectural-scale structures.” In other words, it’s a robot arm that uses additive construction techniques to build large structures safely, quickly, and even (in some cases) renewably.

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Cellulo tangible educational robot swarm for classrooms

Cellulo Introduces Classrooms to Tangible Learning With Robots

Most of the educational robots that we hear about are designed to teach kids how to code. This is good and important and a thing we are in favor of, but robots are also useful in classroom settings even when they’re not teaching programming or computer science principles directly. EPFL’s Cellulo Project is exploring how small, inexpensive robots can leverage autonomy and interactivity to help kids learn with their hands.

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Humanoid robots play soccer at RoboCup

Video Friday: RoboCup, Drone Magic, and NotBot Is Pedro

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

RoboBusiness Europe – April 20-21, 2017 – Delft, Netherlands
RoboGames 2017 – April 21-23, 2017 – Pleasanton, Calif., USA
ICARSC – April 26-30, 2017 – Coimbra, Portugal
AUVSI Xponential – May 8-11, 2017 – Dallas, Texas, USA
AAMAS 2017 – May 8-12, 2017 – Sao Paulo, Brazil
Austech – May 9-12, 2017 – Melbourne, Australia
Innorobo – May 16-18, 2017 – Paris, France
NASA Robotic Mining Competition – May 22-26, 2017 – NASA KSC, Fla., USA
IEEE ICRA – May 29-3, 2017 – Singapore
University Rover Challenge – June 1-13, 2017 – Hanksville, Utah, USA
IEEE World Haptics – June 6-9, 2017 – Munich, Germany
NASA SRC Virtual Competition – June 12-16, 2017 – Online
ICCV 2017 – June 13-16, 2017 – Venice, Italy

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


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Tarzan robot can swing around on overhead wires

Why Georgia Tech Built a Tarzan Robot That Swings Around on Wires

Generally, the term “aerial robot” is synonymous with “drone,” but there are lots of other ways for robots to avoid spending time on the ground. One of the most creative that we’ve seen recently comes from Georgia Tech Professor Jonathan Rogers, who has been working on a sloth-inspired aerial robot named Tarzan. The machine is designed to swing around on overhead wires strung above fields to monitor growing crops. And one day, it may swing around electrical wires in cities, too.

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Disposable delivery drone developed by U.S. Marines

U.S. Marines Testing Disposable Delivery Drones

Getting supplies delivered to troops in remote areas is a big part of what the U.S. military does in terms of logistics. In many cases, it’s too dangerous to send an airplane or helicopter, so the military is always looking for new ways of carrying out such resupply missions. 

Earlier this month at the Sea Air Space 2017 trade show in National Harbor, Md., we saw a new concept for remote resupply that the U.S. Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory has been testing. The TACAD (TACtical Air Delivery) glider is a prototype for an unpowered drone that can fly huge distances to deliver up to 700 pounds (317 kilograms) of whatever you need with high accuracy, and then be abandoned where it lands without a second thought.

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Automaton

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

Editor
Erico Guizzo
New York City
Senior Writer
Evan Ackerman
Washington, D.C.
 

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