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2013 Robot Gift Guide

It's that time of year again, when you go out on a huge shopping spree buying all kinds of cool robot gifts for your family, friends, and Secret Santa coworkers. Or maybe you just go out and get something robotic for, you know, yourself. Because you sure deserve an awesome US $12,000 advanced humanoid robot, right? If, however, that's a bit above your budget (it certainly is way above ours!), we have lots of other options for you. And note that we're trying to bring you different stuff (slightly different, at least) than what we featured on our 2012 Robot Gift Guide. So check out our list, and if you think we missed something good, let everyone know in the comments.

On to the gifts!

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Amazon Promises Package Delivery By Drone: Is It for Real?

Okay, look. I know that the idea of having drones deliver stuff sounds like the future. And there are a lot of companies making promises about it, including, this weekend, Amazon. "We'll be ready to enter commercial operations as soon as the necessary regulations are in place [in 2015]," Amazon says. The reason that Amazon can say this, and that it sounds so exciting, is that it is technically possible to put together a demo like the one they've just unveiled, where you have a drone autonomously transport an object from one place to another.

However, once you get past the wow factor and start thinking critically about what it would take to make something like this work in practice, it starts to look a lot less realistic very, very quickly. 

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Seiko Epson Shows Off Its Dual-Arm Robot

Often equipped with two arms, strange hands, and even stranger-looking heads, a new breed of jack-of-all-trades industrial robot could change the face of automation. And the place to see the latest examples of these dual-arm manufacturing machines was the International Robot Exhibition (IREX) in Tokyo earlier this month.

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Interview: iRobot CTO Paolo Pirjanian Talks Present and Future of Robotics

When iRobot acquired Evolution Robotics (the company behind the Mint cleaning bot) just over a year ago, Evolution CEO Paolo Pirjanian was brought on as iRobot's new CTO. Basically, this means that Paolo's job is to come up with cool new stuff for robots to do, and cool new ways for them to do it.

We got a chance to ask Paolo a few questions at RoboBusiness last month, and we sat down with him and Matthew Lloyd (iRobot's director of communications) to talk about the future of robotics and where he sees iRobot going from here.

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Highlights From the International Robot Exhibition 2013

The theme for this year's International Robot Exhibition (IREX) in Tokyo was "Making a Future with Robot." We're not exactly sure what that means, but we're definitely in favor of it, and here are some of the coolest things that we saw.

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Video Friday: Everything That Happened For the Last Two Weeks, and More

We had a fantastic time at IROS; hopefully you kept up with all of the latest research news, and if not, here's a link to everything we've written so far, and there's still more to come. And as for IREX (the International Robot Exhibition, a trade show taking place at the same venue), we've got a video compilation and a gallery of pics coming to you next week.

However...

Being in Japan for two weeks and focusing on just the conference and trade show, it was a teeny tiny bit inevitable that we'd fall just slightly behind on our typical robot video coverage. Juuust slightly. And so, we're going to make up for that today, with this much more massive than normal Video Friday. So hold on to your browsers: this thing has 23 videos.

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IROS 2013: UAVs Get a Grip With Full-Size Robot Arms

As amazing as flying robots are, there's a limited amount of useful stuff that they can do today. Oh, they're great for surveillance and inspection, there's potential to use them to deliver stuff, and in some specialized circumstances we've seen them cooperatively building structures. But to really be useful in the way that we've come to expect from robots, they're going to need to be able to move a variety of objects at will, picking them up and putting them down whenever and wherever they need to. We saw some of the first examples of this at IROS, giving a whole new meaning to the term “mobile manipulator.”

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Explain the Uncanny Valley in Less Than 1 Minute. Go!

The Uncanny Valley is a topic of much fascination not only in robotics, where it originated, but also in other scientific circles as well as in popular culture. Roboticists often allude to it, and so do computer scientists, psychologists, artists, and media theorists. In 2008, it was mentioned in the TV series "30 Rock." More recently, the Uncanny Valley was used to explain why several animation movies failed, and an Atlantic article referred to it to describe Mitt Romney. The term has also been used to name everything from a literary magazine to a painting of a baboon embracing Nicolas Cage. Some even suggest that the Uncanny Valley has become a meme. But just what is the Uncanny Valley?

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Should I Attend a Conference Via a Telepresence Robot?

When I told the organizers of the FutureMed conference that I couldn't fly to San Diego, Calif., to attend their meeting early this month, I expected that to be the end of the conversation. Instead they came back with an unusual proposition: Since I couldn't be there in the flesh, would I care to attend via robot? 

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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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Canada
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Tokyo, Japan
 

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