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Double 2 telepresence robot at the Oregon Zoo

Double 2 Review: Trying Stuff You Maybe Shouldn't With a Telepresence Robot

At CES in January, Double Robotics announced the Double 2, a major upgrade to their super skinny telepresence platform that features better stability and turbo speed. It looked cool, but we didn’t get super excited about it, because like most telepresence robots, it’s designed to work very well in some very specific, usually business or education-focused environments. We’ve tested these things out before, and once you get past some hiccups and quirks, they generally do what they’re supposed to do, which is provide you with a mobile embodied presence somewhere that you’re not.

When Double Robotics asked us if we wanted to test out a Double 2, we said sure, with two conditions: 1. it had to come with an LTE cellular data connection, allowing us to use the robot free of Wi-Fi; and 2. we could take it anywhere we wanted. To their credit, the company didn’t even hesitate, and they shipped us a brand new Double 2, along with the camera and audio kit accessories and charging dock. Cool, now we can see what this robot can do—and maybe what it can’t.

Where are we taking it? Not some business or education environment. Our Double is going to the zoo.

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Autonomous robot tractor developed by CNH Industrial

Video Friday: Self-Driving Tractor, Robot Sumo, and Trolley Problem Solved

Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your organic 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!):

NASA SRRC Level 2 – September 2-5, 2016 – Worcester, Mass., USA
ISyCoR 2016 – September 7-9, 2016 – Ostrava, Czech Republic
European Rover Challenge – September 10-13, 2016 – Podkarpackie, Poland
Gigaom Change – September 21-23, 2016 – Austin, Texas, USA
RoboBusiness – September 28-29, 2016 – San Jose, Calif., USA
HFR 2016 – September 29-30, 2016 – Genoa, Italy
ISER 2016 – October 3-6, 2016 – Tokyo, Japan
Cybathlon Symposium – October 07, 2016 – Zurich, Switzerland
Cybathalon 2016 – October 08, 2016 – Zurich, Switzerland
Robotica 2016 Brazil – October 8-12, 2016 – Recife, Brazil
ROSCon 2016 – October 8-9, 2016 – Seoul, Korea
IROS 2016 – October 9-14, 2016 – Daejon, Korea


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


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Disney Research's Jimmy, a robot powered by fluid air-water actuators

Disney Robot With Air-Water Actuators Shows Off "Very Fluid" Motions

Like other Disney creations, Jimmy looks rather magical.

While humanoid robots can be painfully slow, Jimmy moves with lifelike speed and grace. A video posted earlier this year shows the robot waving at people, doing a little dance, drumming on a table. Just as impressive, Jimmy can safely operate near people, and by “near” we mean in contact with them. In the video, the robot plays patty-cake with a kid and even pats her cheeks—something you don’t see very often in human-robot interaction experiments.

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Whip tail robot

Whip-Tail Robot Learning to Manipulate Objects Like Indiana Jones

Robots are learning how to use tails in all sorts of different ways. U.C. Berkeley had that brilliant idea of using an active tail to control the orientation of a robot in mid air, and that basic idea has expanded to running robots with and even robotic cars looking for hyper maneuverability. The thing that all of these robots have in common with each other, and with animals, is that their tails are actuated: in order to function, they depend on motors to get them to move around and do stuff. And of course they’re actuated, because what use would they be if you couldn’t control them?

Young-Ho Kim and Dylan A. Shell from Texas A&M University recently published a paper in IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters on “Using a Compliant, Unactuated Tail to Manipulate Objects.” Rather than relying on motors to actuate the tail, they hooked up a “a flexible rope-like structure” (aka a piece of rope, as far as we can tell) to a little RC car to see what they could do with it. You can think of the tail like Indiana Jones’ whip, and just like Indy has shown us across four and a half movies, there’s a lot you can do with some cleverly manipulated rope if you know what you’re doing.

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Quadcopter flies close to a window

Maybe Drone Privacy Shouldn't Be a Federal Case

Yesterday, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s new drone rules went into effect. While many drone enthusiasts were pleased to see some long-awaited progress on this front, the folks at the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), a privacy advocacy organization in Washington, D.C., don’t count in that group. They’ve been wrangling in court with the FAA over the lack of privacy safeguards in the new regulations—an issue that has dogged drone regulation for years.

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Humanoid robot Socibot gets its neck tested by Engineered Arts

Video Friday: Octopus Robot, Solar Drone, and Humanoid Neck Test

Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your thick-necked 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!):

RO-MAN 2016 – August 26-31, 2016 – New York, N.Y., USA
ECAI 2016 – August 29-2, 2016 – The Hague, Holland
NASA SRRC Level 2 – September 2-5, 2016 – Worcester, Mass., USA
ISyCoR 2016 – September 7-9, 2016 – Ostrava, Czech Republic
European Rover Challenge – September 10-13, 2016 – Podkarpackie, Poland
Gigaom Change – September 21-23, 2016 – Austin, Texas, USA
RoboBusiness – September 28-29, 2016 – San Jose, Calif., USA
HFR 2016 – September 29-30, 2016 – Genoa, Italy
ISER 2016 – October 3-6, 2016 – Tokyo, Japan
Cybathlon Symposium – October 07, 2016 – Zurich, Switzerland
Cybathalon 2016 – October 08, 2016 – Zurich, Switzerland
Robotica 2016 Brazil – October 8-12, 2016 – Recife, Brazil
ROSCon 2016 – October 8-9, 2016 – Seoul, Korea
IROS 2016 – October 9-14, 2016 – Daejon, Korea


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


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Parrot Disco drone flying

Flying Parrot's Disco Drone: An Enormous Amount of Almost-Affordable Fun

Yesterday morning, Parrot announced everything that you get with its new Disco drone, and it’s more than just the drone itself: You also get Parrot’s Skycontroller 2 and Parrot’s Cockpitglasses, which work as a FPV (first-person view) headset after you insert your smartphone in it. The kit will be available this September and will cost US $1,300. We were in Palm Springs, Calif., for the announcement, and we spent several hours with Disco out on a golf course in 106-degree heat, trying to find out whether the drone is worth the price, especially for someone who might be new to fixed-wing flight.

We came away with a bad sunburn and lot of impressions. There’s a reason that Disco is so expensive: Parrot stuffed it with some really sophisticated hardware and software, and that comes at a cost. But the result is a drone that is incredibly simple to fly for beginners and still a ton of fun for experienced pilots. The Disco is astonishingly robust, has spectacular video-capture capabilities, and comes with an FPV system that works great right out of the box. Is it worth it? Everything we learned is right after the break.

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Parrot Disco FPV drone

Parrot's Disco Drone Lets You Take to the Sky in Immersive FPV

Parrot defined the consumer quadrotor with its excellent (and affordable) AR Drone, which was first announced at CES 2010. Since then, Parrot has been expanding its quadrotor lineup, with mini quadrotors, wheeled quadrotors, semi-aquatic quadrotors, and quadrotors with beastly cameras inside of them.

At CES 2016, Parrot announced something new: a fixed wing drone called Disco, which promised a totally different flying experience. With a top speed of 70 kilometeres per hour, a flight time of 45 minutes, and a design that might even be (relatively) crash-friendly, Disco is totally different from the experience that you get with a quadcopter.

Today, Disco is official, and as it turns out, we’re not just getting a new fixed-wing drone: Parrot is bundling Disco with a complete first-person view, or FPV, system. You get the drone, a completely redesigned long-range Skycontroller, and Parrot Cockpitglasses, which turn your smartphone into an immersive display that lets you fly from the perspective of the drone itself.

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Video Friday

Video Friday: Robo Foosball, Fetch Snackbot, and Europa Submarine

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!):

RO-MAN 2016 – August 26-31, 2016 – New York, N.Y., USA
ECAI 2016 – August 29-2, 2016 – The Hague, Holland
NASA SRRC Level 2 – September 2-5, 2016 – Worcester, Mass., USA
ISyCoR 2016 – September 7-9, 2016 – Ostrava, Czech Republic
European Rover Challenge – September 10-13, 2016 – Podkarpackie, Poland
Gigaom Change – September 21-23, 2016 – Austin, Texas, USA
RoboBusiness – September 28-29, 2016 – San Jose, Calif., USA
HFR 2016 – September 29-30, 2016 – Genoa, Italy
ISER 2016 – October 3-6, 2016 – Tokyo, Japan
Cybathlon Symposium – October 07, 2016 – Zurich, Switzerland
Cybathalon 2016 – October 08, 2016 – Zurich, Switzerland
Robotica 2016 Brazil – October 8-12, 2016 – Recife, Brazil
ROSCon 2016 – October 8-9, 2016 – Seoul, Korea
IROS 2016 – October 9-14, 2016 – Daejon, South Korea


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


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NASA Space Robotics Challenge R5 Valkyrie humanoid robot

NASA's Space Robotics Challenge: The Tasks, the Prizes, and How to Participate

Last year at the DARPA Robotics Challenge Finals, NASA announced a new challenge for humanoid robots: the Space Robotics Challenge (SRC), which will “prepare robots for the journey to Mars.” Just like the DRC, the first stage of the SRC will consist of a virtual challenge, run in the Gazebo simulator, followed up by a physical challenge using NASA’s R5 Valkyrie robots.

As of yesterday, NASA has opened registration for the SRC, and we’ll take a look at the format of the competition, the challenges that teams will need to complete, and what they can take home for winning.

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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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