Automaton iconAutomaton

Video Friday: Comet Landing, DJI Inspire Drone, and Giant Fighting Robots

All other robotics news this week pales in comparison to the Philae robotic lander making a successful(ish) landing on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko after more than 10 years travelling through space. Last we heard, though, due to misbehaving harpoons, Philae bounced a few times off the surface and ended up in some shade at the base of a cliff. The lander needs to change its position in order to try to get enough sunlight onto its solar panels. The European Space Agency (ESA) isn’t quite sure how they’re going to make that happen, at least not yet, but we have their most recent video update and the rest of the videos of the week for you right here.

Read More

Robots vs. Ebola: What Makes Sense, and What Doesn't

Last month, we previewed a workshop on Safety Robotics for Ebola Workers that was being held by the Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue (CRASAR) at Texas A&M University in partnership with the White House Office of Science and Technology. The goal was to try to figure out how (or if) robots might be able to help out in the current Ebola crisis, and how we might prepare for robots to be useful in future medical situations. The workshop was held early this month, and yesterday, CRASAR director Dr. Robin Murphy posted her assessment of how things went.

Read More

This Is How Close We Are to a Baseball-Playing Robot

We’ve been writing about robots from the Ishikawa Watanabe Laboratory at the University of Tokyo for years. They’ve always had very cool demos, like robots throwing balls, robots tracking balls, robots catching balls, robots hitting balls, and robots running really really fast

I’d just sort of figured that these demos were simply fun and interesting ways of highlighting the capabilities of high-speed actuators and vision systems.

Evidently, I don’t know anything, because it’s now totally obvious that they’re working on a humanoid robot that plays baseball.

Read More

DARPA Wants to Turn Military Planes Into Flying Drone Aircraft Carriers

Drones. Everybody loves them, and everybody wants more of them, even if (in many cases) it’s entirely unreasonable. But let’s not get into that. No, instead we’re going to stick with something very reasonable today, and talk about how the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) wants someone to build a system with the “ability to launch and recover multiple small unmanned air systems from one or more types of existing large manned aircraft.” Coooool!

Read More

IHMC's Atlas Learning Crane Kick, Will Destroy Competition at DRC Finals

Nobody is quite sure yet what robots are going to have to do in the DRC Finals next year. But if part of the disaster scenario involves robots getting their legs swept by evil ninja robots (totally possible), IHMC’s Atlas will be ready for that and more, at least judging by a new video IHMC released titled “Atlas Karate Kid.”

Read More

Video Friday: Real Big Hero, Robots 3D, and Chappie Trailer

Robots are the stars in a new Disney animated movie, a National Geographic 3D film, and a sci-fi action thriller with Hugh Jackman. Turn off your cellphone and enjoy the show—it’s Video Friday.

Today is the premiere of Big Hero 6, a new movie from Disney featuring a big, soft, huggable robot named Baymax. And here’s the cool part: Baymax is actually based on real (and awesome) research out of Carnegie Mellon University. The excitment has apparently inspired some equally real robots to get dressed up in big white inflatable suits, and until you’ve seen Atlas try to walk in one of these things, you have not lived. Or something.

Read More

MIT's Augmented Reality Room Shows What Robots Are Thinking

Most of the time, most of us have absolutely no idea what robots are thinking. Someone who builds and programs a robot does have some idea how that robot is supposed to act based on certain inputs, but as sensors get more ubiquitous and the software that manages them and synthesizes their data to make decisions gets more complex, it becomes increasingly difficult to get a sense of what’s actually going on. MIT is trying to address that issue, and they’re using augmented reality to do it.

Read More

Robotic Micro-Scallops Can Swim Through Your Eyeballs

Designing robots on the micro or nano scale (like, small enough to fit inside your body) is all about simplicity. There just isn’t room for complex motors or actuation systems. There’s barely room for any electronics whatsoever, not to mention batteries, which is why robots that can swim inside your bloodstream or zip around your eyeballs are often driven by magnetic fields. However, magnetic fields drag around anything and everything that happens to be magnetic, so in general, they’re best for controlling just one single microrobot robot at a time. Ideally, you’d want robots that can swim all by themselves, and a robotic micro-scallop, announced today in Nature Communications, could be the answer.

Read More

Fluffy Little Rovers Are an Effective, Adorable Way of Monitoring Penguins

Generally speaking, wild animals don’t like humans all that much. Even animals that aren’t directly threatened by humans (and won’t immediately attempt to flee) get all kinds of stressed out to have tall squishy bipeds getting all up in their business. For scientists studying the behavior of wild animals, this presents a serious conflict, because trying to help those animals by collecting data on them also messes with them such that, in more extreme cases, the animals won’t be able to breed as effectively.

In the past, we’ve seen some remarkable pictures and video footage from small, remote-controlled rovers designed to carry cameras up to wild (and dangerous) animals without freaking them out too much. Now, in a paper just published in Nature Methods, researchers discuss using robots to get up close to penguins to collect data while disturbing the animals as little as possible.

Read More


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

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up for the Automaton newsletter and get biweekly updates about robotics, automation, and AI, all delivered directly to your inbox.

Load More