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Video Friday: New Quadruped, Drone UFO, and Bricklaying Robot

It’s shaping up to be a very exciting few weeks in robotics. At the end of this month is ICRA, the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, from May 26 to 30 in Seattle, Wash. Right after that, the very next week in fact, comes the DARPA Robotics Challenge Finals, June 5 and 6 in Pomona, Calif. We’re going to be at both events, of course, and we’ll be super busy trying to bring you news of everything that’s going on. It’d be great if this week and next week, nothing was happening in robotics so that we could rest up and get all prepared and stuff, but nope: there’s just as much cool new stuff as usual, starting with a brand new hydraulic quadruped robot from the Italian Institute of Technology (IIT).

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DRC Finals Update: What to Expect Next Month

Yesterday, DARPA held a media briefing detailing what we have to look forward to at the DARPA Robotics Challenge Finals next month at Fairplex in Pomona, Calif., on June 5 and 6. We’re absolutely convinced that this is going to be one of the most exciting robotics events of the decade, so let’s take a look at what’s going to happen.

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Robots Might Be the Necessary Future of Urban Pet Ownership

We all love our pets. We love them a crazy, ridiculous amount that is often entirely out of proportion to reality: you don’t want to know how much I spent on medical care for my $5 pet store gerbil. As the world population grows and more people move into cities, it’s going to get increasingly difficult to afford to give larger pets (like cats and especially dogs) the life that they deserve in urban environments. Pets will be a luxury that wealthy people will be able to afford, but what about the rest of us? The answer is, as always, robots.

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Your Finger on a Tablet Can Control Entire Swarms of Robots

As robots get smaller, cheaper, and more capable, it often makes sense to rely on swarms of little bots instead of one big one, and as swarms grow in size and complexity, intuitive methods of real-time control become critical. Georgia Tech’s GRITS Lab has developed a way to dynamically control large swarms of robots using just a tablet and a finger (or two).

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NASA Funds Electricity-Harvesting Robotic Space Eel With Explosive Jet Thrusters and Electroluminescent Skin

Sometimes, headlines just write themselves. And in this particular case, there’s so much cool stuff going on with this NASA-funded robotic project that we couldn’t even stuff it all in to a single line. It’s a concept for a soft robotic eel designed to explore the oceans of Europa (a moon of Jupiter), which is able to scavenge electrical energy from magnetic fields, use it to generate oxygen and hydrogen, and then light it off to create an explosion to propel itself. Oh, and it’ll have a soft flexible skin that doubles as “a stretchable, electroluminescent display,” because it’s awesome. And why not.

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Video Friday: Robotic Hummingbird, Baxter Treats Ebola, and Dexterous Bomb-Squad Robot

We spent most of this week out in Las Vegas checking out Daimler’s new Freightliner autonomous truck. If you haven’t seen it yet (and if you’re not following our Cars That Think blog), click here: it’s very cool. The rest of the week’s robotics news may pale (ever so slightly) in comparison with an event that included a light show projected onto the Hoover Dam, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t have our usual messy heap of Friday robot videos for you.

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Quadcopters Tied to a Pole Do Cooperative Acrobatics

Tying a quadcopter to a pole with a piece of rope seems like it defeats the entire point of having a quadcopter in the first place, since you’re preventing it from flying anywhere except in circles around the pole, which sounds boring.

It’s not boring.

You’ll want to watch this.

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World's Largest Swarm of Miniature Robot Submarines

Forty one tiny robot submarines is a lot of tiny robot submarines. It’s so many, in fact, that controlling them individually doesn’t make sense, and the only way to go is to give them levels of swarm intelligence, so that each individual robot can take care of itself while the swarm as a whole completes an objective.

The CoCoRo (Collective Cognitive Robotics) Project, sponsored by the European Commission, has been working with a heterogeneous swarm of autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) since 2011, and the most important thing you need to know about these robots is that 20 of them are named Jeff.

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CyPhy Works Launches Drone That Makes Aerial Video Easy and Intuitive

CyPhy Works makes drones that are unique predominantly because they use a microfilament tether to carry power and data that allows for unlimited flight time and flawless high resolution video streaming. We would have expected that their next drone would have leveraged this technology somehow, but apparently, some engineers at CyPhy had a clever idea and decided to Kickstart a new drone that takes advantage of it with the ability to fly around while remaining completely level.

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IEEE Spectrum's award-winning robotics blog, featuring news, articles, and videos on robots, humanoids, automation, artificial intelligence, and more.
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Erico Guizzo
New York, N.Y.
Senior Writer
Evan Ackerman
Berkeley, Calif.
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Angelica Lim
Tokyo, Japan

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