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EPFL Developing Connectors for Modular Floating Robots

This is an artistic rendering of a project that's being developed at EPFL (École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne). The Laboratory of Intelligent Systems (LIS) is working on a robot (yes, that's totally a robot) made up of soft, floating modules that connect to each other through electroadhesion.

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Video Friday: UAVs Delivering Packages, More Sushi Than You Can Possibly Eat, and RoboCup Outtakes

THIS WEEK: Will robots help a human graffiti the side of a building? Will Northrop Grumman make one of the most overblown UAV promo videos ever? Will a Darwin-OP headbutt a robot that may or may not be Italian in a RoboCup blooper reel? The answer to all of these questions is "why would we be asking if we didn't have all of this stuff queued up and ready to show you," so check out Video Friday after the break.

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Grishin Robotics Has $25 Million to Invest in Robot Startups

Robotics today is like the Internet in the 1990s: Fuel it with the right combination of technology, people, and money, and it will explode into a formidable new industry that will profoundly reshape people’s lives.

That’s the view of Dmitry Grishin [pictured above], a Russian Internet entrepreneur who made his fortune as a co-founder of Mail.Ru Group, one of Russia’s largest tech companies. Now he has his sights set on robots. Grishin is launching today a New York City-based investment company that has $25 million to inject into robotics startups. His goal is to take robotics beyond factories and labs and bring robots to the masses.

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AirBurr MAV Can Now Self-Right, Is Utterly Unstoppable

In October of 2009, we wrote about the very first version of EPFL's AirBurr micro air vehicle, called HoverMouse. It was an innovative design: a roll cage protected the MAV's engine and flight surfaces, enabling it to crash into walls and floors without damage and then take off again, provided it had enough room to get airborne. Seven iterations later, the AirBurr V8 Samurai includes an active self-righting mechanism that allows it to crash and take off again even in rugged and cluttered environments.

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The Uncanny Valley: The Original Essay by Masahiro Mori

Translated by Karl F. MacDorman and Norri Kageki

The Uncanny Valley by Masahiro Mori, republished in Robotics & Automation MagazineA version of this article originally appeared in the June 2012 issue of
IEEE Robotics & Automation Magazine.

Editor's note: More than 40 years ago, Masahiro Mori, then a robotics professor at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, wrote an essay on how he envisioned people's reactions to robots that looked and acted almost human. In particular, he hypothesized that a person's response to a humanlike robot would abruptly shift from empathy to revulsion as it approached, but failed to attain, a lifelike appearance. This descent into eeriness is known as the uncanny valley. The essay appeared in an obscure Japanese journal called Energy in 1970, and in subsequent years it received almost no attention. More recently, however, the concept of the uncanny valley has rapidly attracted interest in robotics and other scientific circles as well as in popular culture. Some researchers have explored its implications for human-robot interaction and computer-graphics animation, while others have investigated its biological and social roots. Now interest in the uncanny valley should only intensify, as technology evolves and researchers build robots that look increasingly human. Though copies of Mori's essay have circulated among researchers, a complete version hasn't been widely available. This is the first publication of an English translation that has been authorized and reviewed by Mori. [Read an exclusive interview with him.]

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An Uncanny Mind: Masahiro Mori on the Uncanny Valley and Beyond

Masahiro Mori Uncanny Valley
Masahiro Mori at his home in Tokyo.

In this guest post, Norri Kageki interviews Masahiro Mori, who, as a professor of engineering at Tokyo Institute of Technology in the 1970s, proposed the now-famous concept of the uncanny valley. [Read the first authorized translation of his seminal article here.] Mori's insight was that people would react with revulsion to humanlike robots, whose appearance resembled, but did not quite replicate, that of a real human. He called this phenomenon bukimi no tani (the term "uncanny valley" first appeared in the 1978 book Robots: Fact, Fiction, and Prediction, written by Jasia Reichardt).

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Bosch Introduces New Autonomous Robotic Lawnmower

We got a tip over the weekend that Bosch is introducing (or, has just introduced) what a press release (machine translated from Swedish) calls the “world’s first intelligent robot lawn mower,” the Bosch Indego. Well, we’re not entirely sure about the world’s first bit, but from what we can tell, there are definitely some features here that will make the Indego more intelligent than some of its competitors.

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Video Friday: Humanoid Goes Swimming, a Last Moment Robot, and R2D2 Sells You a Prius

Believe it or not, we still have ICRA posts in the works, and there's all kinds of other long-term awesome stuff going on around here that we'd love to tell you about but can't (HA!). But rest assured, we're now more optimistic about robotics than we've ever been before. Today's Video Friday, however, has absolutely nothing to do with any of that.

Incidentally, if you spot anything particularly cool that you think belongs in a Video Friday (or deserves a post all on its own), get in touch! We're on Twitter, Facebook, and you can even email us if you hate social networking. Meantime, on to the videos!

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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.
Contact us:

Erico Guizzo
New York City
Senior Writer
Evan Ackerman
Washington, D.C.

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