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RoboBrrd Highlight Reel: RoboBrrdalicious

We're big fans of RobotGrrl around here, and one of her current projects is these totally cool, totally DIY-able interactive robotic birds called RoboBrrds. If you've always wanted to throw yourself bodily into the world of Arduino-powered DIY robotics, this is a great way to go.

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Fun Robot Stuff: Roomba Revenge and My Robot Nation

What with the holidays coming up faster than a reindeer being chased by a menorah, we've got a couple fun little robot gifts that are so cheap you might as well just buy them for yourself.

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Robot Arm Makes for the Most Awesome Flight Simulator Ever

Yes, that's a dude playing around in an immersive flight simulator that's mounted on the end of a giant robot arm. It has 6 degrees of freedom, it can simulate continuous rotation and g-forces, and no, it probably won't fit in your living room.

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Rumored Kinect 2 Upgrades Could Be Big News for Robotics

Ready for some mostly unsubstantiated rumors about the next generation Kinect system? According to the Eurogamer blog (who cites a "development source" at Microsoft), the Kinect 2 will feature a bunch of upgrades which could allow creative roboticists to do all kinds of awesome new stuff.

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Freaky Boneless Robot Walks on Soft Legs

soft robot flexibot harvard

There's just something about those bulbous air muscles that soft robots use that creeps me out, but it's hard to deny that as the designs get more and more refined, the robots themselves are getting capable enough to actually, you know, start doing stuff. Take this soft robot from Harvard, for example: it not only walks, it knows several different gaits and can deflate to stuff itself through tiny little gaps.

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World's Cleverest Jumping Robot Gets Faster, More Agile

I have absolutely no foundation for calling this the "world's cleverest" jumping robot, except that we've covered a whole bunch of jumping robots, and this one is easily one of the most brilliant designs that we've seen. We first met this little guy at ICRA, where it showed off its ability to jump, land without smashing itself to pieces, stand up again, turn, and then make another jump. Cool, and now it's just gotten some serious upgrades.

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How NASA's Curiosity Rover Will Land on Mars

UPDATED 5:26 p.m.: Latest updates from NASA:

- NASA's Mars Science Laboratory and its Curiosity rover have blasted off on an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

- NASA's Mars Science Laboratory has separated from the rocket that boosted it toward Mars and has sent a signal to Earth.

- Engineers have received data from NASA's Mars Science Laboratory showing that all systems are operating normally. The approximately eight-month journey to Mars is underway.

mars, robotic exploration, space robots, rover, mars rover, curiosity, jpl, jet propulsion laboratory, mars science laboratory, msl, entry descent and landing, edl, landing, skycrane

This week, NASA gave its launch team the go-ahead to continue working towards liftoff of the Mars Science Laboratory, also known as the Curiosity rover, tomorrow, Saturday, November 26. So if things go according to plan, an Atlas V rocket will blast into space carrying NASA's bigger and more capable new rover, the beginning of a 570-million-kilometer journey to the Red Planet.

The trip will take nearly nine months and likely involve lots of challenges. But today I want to bring your attention to one part of the mission that I find fascinating, and a bit scary: getting the rover on the surface of Mars. Or as the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory engineers call it, "entry, descent, and landing," or EDL.

Curiosity's predecessors, Spirit and Opportunity, the size of golf carts, landed on "air bags" dropped from a descent craft. The new rover, however, is too big and heavy for that -- it's the size of a small car, weighing in at 900 kilograms, and equipped with a nuclear power supply and 10 scientific instruments.

So the JPL team came up with a new approach that involves lowering the rover on cables -- the "skycrane maneuver." Picture a commando rappelling from a helicopter and you get the idea. JPL has prepared a computer animation depicting the EDL sequence, and we got Steve Lee, the guidance, navigation, and control manager for the mission, to narrate the action:

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