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DARPA Robotics Challenge: Here Are the Official Details

DARPA robotics challenge disaster reponse robots
Illustration of a disaster response scenario part of the DARPA Robotics Challenge: The robot on the right uses a power tool to break through a wall, and the one on the left turns a valve to close a leaking pipe. Image: DARPA

DARPA to the robotics community: the challenge is on.

Today the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is announcing a bold new program aiming to advance robotics technology for disaster response. The DARPA Robotics Challenge is offering tens of million of dollars in funding to teams from anywhere in the world to build robots capable of performing complex mobility and manipulation tasks such as walking over rubble and operating power tools. It all will culminate with an audacious competition with robots driving trucks, breaking through walls, and attempting to perform repairs in a simulated industrial-disaster setting. The winner takes all: a $2 million cash prize.

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Robotic Octopus Takes First Betentacled Steps

The holy grail of the whole soft robotics initiative that many research groups are so interested in is, arguably, the octopus. Anyone who has ever seen an octopus in action can understand why: they're capable of some extraordinary maneuvers, thanks to relatively large brains, very fine motor control, and a near-total lack of bones. The Octopus Project is a European, er, project that's working on "investigating and understanding the principles that give rise to the octopus sensory-motor capabilities and incorporating them in new design approaches," and their newest design approach is this fully mobile roboctopus with eight soft tentacles.

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Video Friday: Happy Easter, With Robots

Robots, I guess, are really big on Easter. What has led me to this conclusion is the sheer volume of vids that have cropped up this week. So, let's just see how many videos (not all Easter related, by the way) we can cram into one single post. Aaaaaand, GO!

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The Future of Robotics and Artificial Intelligence Is Open

open robotics
Image: Darwin-OP schematic via Robotsource

This is a guest post by author William Hertling. The views expressed here are his own and do not reflect those of his employer, the IEEE, or IEEE Spectrum.

At South by Southwest Interactive last month, I debated the future of artificial intelligence with my co-panelists.

The roboticist on the panel argued that AI is an intellectually challenging field where the problems are difficult, and therefore can be solved only by highly intelligent people working on obscure mathematics and algorithms. The future, he argued, will look much like the past: a series of incremental, hard-won improvements in very narrow fields.

I disagree.

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Next Week is National Robotics Week!

Next week (or, technically, this Saturday) is National Robotics Week (or, technically, week and two days). This year, you can look forward to 135 planned events encompassing all 50 states. Attend, Share and Enjoy! Plus: RoboGames! (!!!)

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Four HUBO Robots Come Together for Beatles Cover

This arrangement of The Beatles Come Together for a drum kit and three hubophones (yes, hubophones) might be one of the most, er, expensive displays of robotic music on record. Yes, I know, that drummer is no Ringo, but otherwise, it's probably the most heartfelt and moving hubophone version of this song that we've ever heard.

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Printable Robots: MIT Project Wants to Let You Design and Fabricate Your Own Machines

mit printable origami insect robot
An insect-like robot designed and printed using new fabrication techniques developed by MIT researchers. Photo: Jason Dorfman, CSAIL/MIT

Who knew that origami could be the future of robotics?

Today, if you want to design and build your own robot, you have to order components, write software, and then assemble and test your creation. Of course, the more sophisticated your robot gets, the more time and money you have to spend on it.

Now imagine if you could use a computer program to specify the overall capabilities and appearance of your robot and, with the push of a button, have the robot fabricated by a special printer right in your living room. That's a futuristic scenario that a new MIT project wants to turn into reality.

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Problems With Your Robot? You Need the Reset It! App

Problems with your robot? We've all been there. You've probably tried turning it off and on again, but that's so binary. New for 2012, we're incredibly excited to introduce you to Reset It!™ All your robot problems are now solved. All of them.

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Video Friday: Warm Robot Hand, Rugged RHex, and ROBO-ONE

It's been a good week for robot videos -- with Hume and Sand Flea and all -- but that certainly doesn't mean that we don't have some good stuff left over for you today. Japanese researchers have a friendly and warm robot hand they'd like you to shake, Boston Dynamics is out to impress with a new extra-rugged version of the RHex robot, and the ROBO-ONE results are in with robot-on-robot fighting action and a rather hilariously inept footrace.

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RoboBonobo: Giving Apes Control of Their Own Robot

This is RoboBonobo. It's a robotic ape. It's got a water cannon on it, and it'll eventually be able to chase you around under the direct control of real bonobos wielding wireless keyboards and iPads. In other words, no human is safe. Anywhere. Ever.

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