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One-Eyed Bug Vision Helps Drones Land

In an effort to build—and control—ever smaller drones, researchers have been looking at how insects navigate. Insects use a technique called optical flow, based on the apparent speed of objects passing by in their field of vision. In fact, humans use optical flow to give us a sense of how fast we’re going when we’re driving. 

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Video Friday: Kicking a Robot, TV Drone Crash, and Supernumerary Lightsabers

Last week was a holiday, and we’re at CES this week, but nothing can stop the robot videos. Things should be back to normal around here next week (we hope). Let us know if you have videos or events to suggest, and enjoy today’s Video Friday selection!

ASSISIbf Winter School – January 12-14, 2016 – Lausanne, Switzerland
ASU Rehabilitation Robotics Workshop – February 8-9, 2016 – Tempe, Arizona, USA
The Future of Rescue Simulation Workshop – February 29-4, 2016 – Leiden, Netherlands
HRI 2016 – March 7-10, 2016 – Christchurch, New Zealand
WeRobot 2016 – April 1-2, 2016 – Miami, Fla., USA
National Robotics Week – April 2-10, 2016 – United States
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Cooki: a Desktop Robotic Chef That Does Everything

CES has only officially been open for like 5 minutes, and already we’ve found something too awesome not to share immediately: a cooking robot from a startup called Sereneti that can handle everything for you, from cooking to stirring to adding ingredients at the right time. 

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Toyota AI Team Hires James Kuffner from Google Robotics, Will Have Rodney Brooks as Adviser

Toyota revealed more details about its ambitious AI and robotics effort yesterday at CES in Las Vegas. Dr. Gill Pratt, who leads the effort as CEO of the newly formed Toyota Research Institute (TRI), announced an impressive line-up of engineers and executives to head its technical leadership team and advisory board. Among the hires is James Kuffner, who until recently led Google’s robotics program and will focus on cloud computing at TRI. The advisers include notable technologists like Rodney Brooks from Rethink Robotics and Marc Benioff from Salesforce.

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Double 2 Telepresence Robot Has Better Stability, New Camera, and Turbo Button

Today, Double Robotics is announcing the Double 2 telepresence robot, which is (sadly) not called the “Four.” But it’s still worth having a look at, because it includes a brand new TURBO button which will turn your mild-mannered telepresence robot into a mostly stoppable force of non-destruction. And there are other cool new things, too.

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The Economics of Drone Delivery

This is a guest post. The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not represent positions of IEEE Spectrum or the IEEE. This post was originally published at the Flexport Blog.

Two years ago, Jeff Bezos promised that Amazon would soon deliver packages by drone. “I know this looks like science fiction,” the Amazon CEO told Charlie Rose on “60 Minutes” as he stood with several Amazon drones. “It’s not.”

Bezos’s primetime announcement sparked a lot of interest—and a media consensus that it was a publicity stunt to get Christmas shoppers thinking about Amazon. After all, federal law prohibited commercial drones from flying over populated areas, and airplanes were already experiencing close calls with hobbyists’ drones.

But the drone community is not acting like the prospect of delivering packages by drone is a pipe dream. Amazon just released an update of its Prime Air program. Executives at Google Wing claim they will deliver packages in 2017 via drone. Walmart has asked the Federal Aviation Administration for permission to test drone delivery, and venture capitalists have invested in drone delivery startups.

So what makes the drone community believe deliveries are a good idea? Assuming the technology works, do the economics make sense?

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Get Back to Work: Amazon and Airbus Want Your Robots

Hopefully, you’ve had some time off from robots over the last week or two. It’s been nice, hasn’t it? But your robot misses you, and it’s time to get back to work. And for 2016, how about you start training your robot to do something useful for a change, like transferring items from shelves to totes or drilling holes in airplanes. Both Amazon and Airbus have announced challenges for 2016. If your robot is talented enough, you could win a bunch of money, but more importantly, you could end up with serious attention from an enormous company that wants to do stuff with your robot.

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Why Co-Bots Will Be a Huge Innovation and Growth Driver for Robotics Industry

This is a guest post. The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not represent positions of IEEE Spectrum or the IEEE.

Collaborative robots (also called co-bots) are designed to work alongside human workers, assisting them with a variety of tasks. Because co-bots are affordable, highly adaptable, and almost plug-and-play, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are eager to adopt this technology, and some analysts (myself included) expect this segment will see massive growth in the next few years.

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Disney’s VertiGo Combines Car, Helicopter to Drive Up Walls

For robots, multimodal is the way to go, when going involves getting to as many places as you possibly can. Designing a robot with the ability to deal with a variety of terrains or conditions usually requires some creativity, and in the past, some of the most creative designs have come from ETH Zurich and Disney Research, like this wall-climbing base-jumping tornado-powered robot called Paraswift.

As cool as Paraswift was, since it depended on suction to climb walls, it couldn’t deal with rough surfaces that prevented a solid vacuum seal. This led the Disney Research/ETH team to try something else, and that something else is a new robot called VertiGo, which is a sort of hybrid helicopter-car-thing that can drive on the ground and then transition to climb up vertical walls.

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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.
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