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Video Friday: Humanoids Sing, Giant Eyeball Robot, and Kuka Ping Pong Revenge

CES 2015 has been over for a week, which means we’re only just starting to panic about the impending horror of CES 2016. We did see one or two cool robots at CES this year, although in our experience, it’s not a place where we’ve come to expect much in the way of groundbreaking robotics announcements. That said, we’re working up videos on the stuff that we did see, but for today, we’ve got a bunch of random CES robot videos to get you all caught up, plus the rest of the videos that we’ve been hanging onto while we’ve been up to our eyeballs in consumer electronics for the past few weeks.

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Rapere: An Intercept Drone to Seek and Destroy Other Drones

As drones get cheaper to buy and easier to use, they’re also going to get more and more annoying. Back when they were expensive and complicated and fragile and having one was a big deal, people would be careful with them, and flying them would be enough of an event that you wouldn’t be thinking about all the ways in which it’s possible to use drones to do things that are (at best) obnoxious or (slightly worse) illegal or (way worse) recklessly dangerous.

For most people on the ground, there’s not a lot that we can do about an unwanted drone buzzing around overhead, especially if it’s out of shotgun range and you don’t have a military-grade laser handy. The solution to this is obvious and inevitable: intercept drones that seek out and bring down other drones.

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Autonomous Modules Self-Assemble in Air and Water

We’ve seen a few different robotic construction projects that leverage stochasticity to assemble themselves into complex, ordered shapes or structures through a combination of time and random motion. Generally, the autonomous protorobot modules (is that a thing?) are active on some kind of artificial random motion generator like a table that shakes, but it’s much more fun to see autonomous modules assembling themselves using only the power of nature.

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This Robot Makes Doctor Visits Less Terrifying for Kids

Nobody (almost nobody) likes getting stabbed with needles, and kids seem to especially hate it. Getting vaccinated is an unpleasant process for everyone concerned, including the kids, their anxious parents, and nurses and physicians who are just trying to do their job. There are ways to coach all parties involved to be better at dealing with scary and painful procedures, and that’s where robots might help. Robots, with the proper programming, have proven (like, peer-reviewed proven) that they can be very effective pain coaches.

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Disney Robot Draws Giant Sketches on the Beach

We’ve seen robots drawing and painting before. But Beachbot does art on a whole different scale. Developed by a team from Disney Research Zurich and ETH Zurich, the robot can autonomously create giant sand drawings by dragging a rake-like tool on a beach.

Paul Beardsley, a principal research scientist at Disney Research Zurich, says he wanted to build an artist robot that could keep creating new artwork. Instead of using paint, he wanted to explore a less permanent medium. “Sand drawing is perfect because it’s an infinitely reuseable canvas,” he says.

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Sepios: ETH Zurich's Robot Cuttlefish

As much as we enjoyed all of the robots performing the ETH Zurich Autonomous Systems Lab’s video, one robot in particular stood out because it didn’t look familiar. You may have spotted it too, at about 1:30: a robot with four orthogonal fins called Sepios. We did some hardcore journalistic research (consisting primarily of a Google search) and found a website on it, along with a very cool video of the robot swimming in the ocean.

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FAA: Merry Christmas, and Use Caution and Common Sense When Flying Your New Drone

On Thursday, way too many kids (and adults) will likely find themselves to be the proud owner of a fancy new drone that they have no idea how to fly. Before all kinds of disasters inevitably happen, the FAA in partnership with AUVSI (the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International), the AMA (Academy of Model Aeronautics), and the Small UAV Coalition has launched a website called KnowBeforeYouFly.org. It’s a reiteration of the current set of rules governing use of drones by the public, and it can be summarized thusly: when flying a drone, use caution and common sense.

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Video Friday: Humanoid Waltz, Robot Sumo, and Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays from all of us at IEEE Spectrum! Whether you choose to celebrate Robanzaa/KwanzaaRobonnukah/Hannukah, Xmas/Christmas, or any other robot/human holiday, we trust that your next few weeks will be filled with cheer, merriment, some amount of indulgence, and (if you’re good) maybe even some gifts

We may be taking a day or two off here and there over the next few weeks, but we’ll be back in force for the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in early January. Usually, robots don’t headline at CES, so we’re not expecting anything big, but most of the time there are at least one or two worthwhile surprises.

Anyway, we’re not the only ones excited for the holidays, and we’ll start off Video Friday with some particularly festive robots.


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Japanese Company Creating Robotic Action Figures

Action figures that pose themselves may be the next big thing in Japan’s billion dollar plastic model industry. Speecys, a robotics company founded in 2001 by Tomoaki Kasuga (following a stint working on Sony’s robot dog Aibo), has unveiled what it calls the world’s first “Motion Figure” system.

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IEEE Spectrum's award-winning robotics blog, featuring news, articles, and videos on robots, humanoids, automation, artificial intelligence, and more.
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Erico Guizzo
New York, N.Y.
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Evan Ackerman
Berkeley, Calif.
 
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Canada
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Tokyo, Japan
 

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