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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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Drone Stuff: Parachutes, Politics, and No-Fly Zones

There's been a bunch of drone stuff going on this week, and we thought that it might be easiest for you (and for us) to toss it all at you at once. It's sort of like Video Friday, except Drone News Thursday. And no, this will not be a recurring feature (I hope), so enjoy it while it lasts.

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Help Kickstart This Quadrotor So That We Can All Have Hoverbikes

Early this year we wrote about Aerofex, a California company developing a personal hover vehicle and planning to begin selling a commercial model in 2017. Now a second company, based in the U.K., has unveiled its own plans to build a full-scale hoverbike.

In addition to raising money from private investors, Malloy Aeronautics is taking to Kickstarter to fund its hoverbike project. The project is still getting off the ground, so to speak, so Kickstarter backers won't be getting an actual hoverbike as reward but are promised a cool quadrotor with impressive payload capability and an unusual design (overlapping rotors and a foldable frame).

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Here's That Extra Pair of Robot Fingers You've Always Wanted

Humans are tired of being constrained to the number of limbs and digits that we were genetically coded for, which is why we were so excited to hear about the pending availability of that extra pair of robotic arms we've always wanted.

But there's absolutely no reason that we should stop at arms. We want extra everything, because more is always always always better, and an extra pair of robotic fingers is definitely something that we've always wanted. Why? Because with seven fingers on each hand, we have the potential to be 40 percent more efficient at typing, and you would get seven articles on robots per week instead of the usual five!

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IEEE Spectrum's award-winning robotics blog, featuring news, articles, and videos on robots, humanoids, automation, artificial intelligence, and more.
Contact us:

Erico Guizzo
New York, N.Y.
Senior Writer
Evan Ackerman
Berkeley, Calif.
Jason Falconer
Angelica Lim
Tokyo, Japan

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