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GWU Pet Project Means Your Dog Really, Really Wants a Robot

Teaching robots to S.C.O.O.P. P.O.O.P. is fine for humans with dogs, but the dogs themselves couldn't care less what happens to their, uh, leavings. What dogs do care about is going for walks, playing fetch, and getting fed, and in an effort to appeal to the canine user demographic, students at George Washington University are hard at work teaching their PR2 robot to be your dog's new best friend.

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Animatronic Robot Baby Cannot Be Unseen

Remember how we keep on saying that you shouldn't make robot babies? That's because you shouldn't make robot babies. It's a little bit more excusable if you're a professional animator and someone is paying you to make one of these... Things... But that doesn't make it any less creepy.

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This Is What Kids Want From Robots

Image via ALIZ-E Project

We've been waiting for years (decades, in fact) for robots to become integral parts of our daily lives, but it hasn't quite happened yet. We're getting closer, that's for sure, but it's starting to look like it might be our kids (and not us) who will get the full benefit of the forthcoming robot revolution. With that in mind, Latitude Research has collaborated with with LEGO Learning Institute and Australia's Project Synthesis to compile a study of how children see robots fitting into their lives.

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Search and Rescue Dog Deploys Robot Snake via Bark Control

Many animals, including some humans, seem to have an instinctual aversion to snakes. Many animals, including some humans, also seem to have an instinctual aversion to robots. Couple that with a (totally understandable) instinctual aversion to running around in disaster zones, and it's remarkable that this robosnake-deploying disaster dog even shows up for work in the mornings. 

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Robot Vacuums That Empty Themselves

The 2012 Consumer Electronics Show was not a big launching point for robotics companies this year. We saw Pleos, Paros, Paperos, and other familiar robots that didn't start with the letter "P" like Naos and Cubelets (not to mention Tosy's robotic boombox presented by Justin Bieber). Even iRobot decided not to put on an appearance: They were at CES taking meetings, but without a big booth presence like they've had in years past.

But we're always looking for what's coming next, and we did find one thing that got us excited. If you own a robotic vacuum cleaner, you probably know that one of the most annoying things about these devices is that when their dust bin is full, you have to clean your cleaning robot. The good news is that at CES we saw a couple of robot vacuums from Asia that come with docking stations capable of emptying the dust bins automatically.

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French Self-Driving Car Takes to the Road

Quasper France autonomous vehicle

Autonomous vehicle projects are picking up speed -- literally. Leading the pack is Google's famed robot car, which has logged thousands of kilometers driving on public roads. But there are projects also in Italy, Germany, the U.K., and reportedly China.

Now we've learned about an interesting self-driving vehicle developed in France. The video below shows how the car works and some road tests, including one in which a "polystyrene pedestrian" is thrown in front of the vehicle:

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It's Time to Start 3D Scanning the World

This is a guest post. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the blogger and do not represent positions of Automaton, IEEE Spectrum, or the IEEE.

matterport scan

When Microsoft was developing its Kinect 3D sensor, a critical task was to calibrate its algorithms to rapidly and accurately recognize parts of the human body, especially hands, to make sure the device would work in any home, with any age group, any clothing, and any kind of background object. Using a computer-based approach to do the calibration had limitations, because computers would sometimes fail to identify a human hand in a Kinect-generated image, or would "see" a hand where none existed. So Microsoft is said to have turned to humans for help, crowdsourcing the image-tagging job using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, the online service where people get paid for performing relatively simple tasks that computers are not good at. As a result the Kinect now knows what all (or most) hands look like. Great!

Well, that's great if all you care about is gesture-based gaming, but from my commercial robotics-oriented perspective, the problem is that a human hand is just one "thing" among thousands -- millions?! -- out there that we would like machines to be able to identify. Imagine if a robot could promptly recognize any object in a home or office or factory: Anything that the robot sees or picks up it would instantly know what it is. Now that would be great.

So the question is: Can we ever achieve that goal? Can we somehow automate or crowdsource image tagging of almost every object imaginable?

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Robot With Tail Shows Off More Midair Skills

uc berkeley tailbot robot slope transition with active tail

When we posted about UC Berkeley's Tailbot last week, we mentioned that the robot was originally presented back at IROS, the IEEE International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems. Evan Chang-Siu and Thomas Libby, two of the authors of the IROS paper, wrote in to point out a few additional tricks that Tailbot has up its sleeve and share some extra video with us.

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