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Video Friday: Are You Ready For Mars?

Late Sunday night, west coast time, NASA's Curiosity rover, one of the most sophisticated (and expensive) robots that the world has ever seen, will attempt to land on the surface of Mars. If you've been living under a rock that's been living under another rock that's actually on Mars, there's a chance that you haven't heard about what's going to happen. So today, we're going to fill you in with a bunch of videos.

Oh, and we'll also be on the ground at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. (where the mission control is located) in person to bring you the show live as it happens.

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Next-Gen Zeno R-50 Puts a Face on Research Robots

Hanson Robotics is well known for its family of robots with delicately engineered, highly expressive faces made out of something that isn't called Flubber. At anywhere from $8,500 to $14,500, this level of sophistication doesn't come cheap, but a new model of Zeno the robotic boy has dropped some hints about a new generation of smaller cousins which will be much less expensive.

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This Robot Can Somehow Jump on Water

The crazier parts of the scientific community have long declared anything that can walk on water to be possessed by black magic, lizards and bugs included. But black magic or no, roboticists at the Harbin Institute of Technology in China have managed to make it work on a robotic insect that, in addition to walking on water, can also jump.

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XRL Hexapod Robot Gets a Tail, Learns to Use It

In January, we wrote about some spectacular research from UC Berkeley exploring what happens when you give a little wheeled robot a controllable tail, like a lizard. As it turns out, robots with tails can fly through the air while maintaining their orientation, and now other robotic platforms are testing out this technique, thanks to a collaboration between UC Berkeley and the University of Pennsylvania.

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Video Friday: The CIA's Declassified Robotic Spy Critters

Yeah, we've got other videos for you this week too, but how often do you get to see footage of ex-super-secret robotic fish and bugs that we'd be impressed by if we saw them today even though they were invented decades ago? Never, that's how often, except for today.

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Robot-Installed Solar Panels Cut Costs by 50%

Solar panels are obeying the will of Moore's Law by getting ever cheaper and more efficient. What's not getting cheaper or more efficient is the human labor required to install them. This keeps the cost of going solar higher than us duck-squeezing envirinmintl types would like, but robots are busy coming to our rescue by setting up solar power plants much cheaper and much, much faster.

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Roboray Uses Bioengineering to Conquer the Deep

Bioroboticists at the University of Virginia have built themselves a robotic cow-nosed ray. Why? Because they can. Also, because rays are great at what they do, and if we can copy all their tricks to make better underwater robots, we absolutely should.

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iRobot and InTouch Health Announce RP-VITA Telemedicine Robot

Ever since iRobot announced its Healthcare Robotics division in 2009, we've been speculating about what the company would come up with. Our first guess was a telepresence platform (based on the ConnectR), but when we met Ava in January of 2011, that healthcare-telepresence idea got super-sized. A year ago this week, iRobot partnered with InTouch Health to "revolutionize how people communicate and deliver information through remote presence," and now it's looking like our prediction was pretty darn close, as iRobot and InTouch are today officially unveiling the RP-VITA, an Ava-based telemedicine platform for hospitals. We spoke with InTouch chairman and CEO Yulun Wang along with iRobot senior VP Glen Weinstein to get you all the details.

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Custom Japanese Hobby Robot Somersaults with Servo Tentacles

Straight from Japan comes this robot called "Metallic Vaio 2012," which has a style of locomotion that we've never seen before. Instead of using arms or legs, it's got a sort of combination of both: two long tentacles made out of chains of servos that it uses to crawl around and rapidly somersault from place to place.

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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.
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Angelica Lim

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