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Video Friday: Shape-Changing Interface, Robot Pro-Wrestling, and 3D-Printed Humanoid

Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your Automaton bloggers. We’re also going to start posting a weekly calendar of upcoming robotics events for the next few months; here's what we have so far (send us your events!):

SF Bay Area Robotics Group Meetup – November 18, 2015 – San Francisco, Calif., USA
ROBOT 2015 - Iberian Robotics Conference – November 19-21, 2015 – Lisbon, Portugal
Robotics Expo – November 20-22, 2015 – Moscow, Russia
100 Years of Robot Art and Science in the Bay Area – November 20, 2015 – San Francisco, Calif., USA
World Robotics Conference 2015 – November 23-25, 2015 – Beijing, China
Dronetech – November 26, 2015 – Bristol, U.K.
IREX 2015 – December 2-5, 2015 – Toyko, Japan
RoboUniverse Shanghai – December 8-10, 2015 – Shanghai, China
RoboUniverse San Diego – December 14-16, 2015 – San Diego, Calif., USA
ASU Rehabilitation Robotics Workshop – February 8-9, 2016 – Tempe, Arizona, USA
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
Portugese Robotics Open – May 4-8, 2016 – Bragança, Portugal
Advanced Robotics Systems and Competitions – May 06, 2016 – Bragança, Portugal
Innorobo 2016 – May 24-26, 2016 – Paris, France

Let us know if you have suggestions for next week, and enjoy today’s videos.

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Bosch's Giant Robot Can Punch Weeds to Death

At IROS last month, researchers from a Bosch startup called Deepfield Robotics presented a paper on “Vision-Based High-Speed Manipulation for Robotic Ultra-Precise Weed Control,” which has like four distinct exciting-sounding phrases in it. We wanted to write about it immediately, but Deepfield asked us to hold off a bit until their fancy new website went live, which it now has. This means that we can show you video of their enormous agricultural robot that can autonomously detect and physically obliterate individual weeds in a tenth of a second.

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Alpha 2, a Humanoid Robot With Social Skills, Is Now on Indiegogo

Today, UBTECH Robotics, a company headquartered in Shenzhen, China, is launching a crowdfunding campaign for Alpha 2, a small humanoid robot “designed for practical household service and companionship.” Alpha 2 has a similar design to many other hobby-class humanoids, but two things stand out: its potential for social interaction, and its extremely low cost.

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Disney Software Makes It Easy to Design and Print Custom Walking Robots

For most hobbyists, building a robot mostly involves buying a robot and assembling it and then (if that first part doesn’t make you hate robots) programming it to do stuff. Designing your own robot from scratch is much more difficult, especially if it’s a robot that has legs that are supposed to do something practical. ETH Zurich, in collaboration with Disney Research and CMU, has developed “an interactive design system that allows casual users to quickly create 3D-printable robotic creatures.” From walking bipeds to salamanders with actuated spines to quintapeds (that’s a thing, right?), the software does all of the hard work for you, and with just a 3D printer and some servos, you can design robots that are exactly as bizarre as you want them to be.

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Video Friday: Breakfast Robot, Programmable Matter, and Exploding Ping Pong Balls

Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your Automaton bloggers. We’re also going to start posting a weekly calendar of upcoming robotics events for the next few months; here’s what we have so far (send us your events!):

2015 Robot Film Fest – November 07, 2015 – Pittsburgh, Pa., USA
Asian Robotics Week – November 12-13, 2015 – Singapore
AAAI Fall Symposia – November 12-14, 2015 – Arlington, Va., USA
SF Bay Area Robotics Group Meetup – November 18, 2015 – San Francisco, Calif., USA
ROBOT 2015 - Iberian Robotics Conference – November 19-21, 2015 – Lisbon, Portugal
Robotics Expo – November 20-22, 2015 – Moscow, Russia
World Robotics Conference 2015 – November 23-25, 2015 – Beijing, China
Dronetech – November 26, 2015 – Bristol, U.K.
IREX 2015 – December 2-5, 2015 – Toyko, Japan
RoboUniverse Shanghai – December 8-10, 2015 – Shanghai, China
RoboUniverse San Diego – December 14-16, 2015 – San Diego, Calif., USA

Let us know if you have suggestions for next week, and enjoy today's videos.

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Toyota Invests $1 Billion in AI and Robots, Will Open R&D Lab in Silicon Valley

Today in Tokyo, Toyota announced that it is investing US $1 billion over the next five years to establish a new R&D arm headquartered in Silicon Valley and focused on artificial intelligence and robotics. The Toyota Research Institute (TRI) plans to hire hundreds of engineers to staff a main facility in Palo Alto, Calif., near Stanford University, and a second facility located near MIT in Cambridge, Mass.

Former DARPA program manager Dr. Gill Pratt, an executive technical advisor at Toyota, was named CEO of TRI, which will begin operations in January. Toyota president Akio Toyoda said in a press conference that the company pursues innovation and new technologies “to make life better for our customers and society as a whole,” adding that he wanted to “work with Gill not just because he’s an amazing researcher and engineer, but because I believe his goals and motivations are the same as ours.”

We spoke to Dr. Pratt to find out what kinds of things TRI wants to work on, how they plan to transform pure research into practical applications, and where all that money is going.

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Watch This Massive Drone Launch and Recover Another Drone in Flight

We’ve written entire posts on how tricky it can be to recover a fixed-wing drone. Only the ridiculously large and expensive and over-engineered drones are able to land themselves (Predators, Global Hawks, things like that). Most other fixed-wing drones land themselves by crashing into the ground as gently as possible if they’re small and cheap, or maybe using a parachute if they’re slightly less small and cheap. Bigger fixed wing drones have to get more creative, especially if a precision landing is required (like recovery to a ship). Unmanned aircraft system developer Insitu, a Boeing subsidiary based in Bingen, Wash., has developed one of the most creative and awesome drone launch and recovery systems I’ve ever seen, using an enormous octocopter carrier aircraft.

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MIT Drone Flies Autonomously While Avoiding Obstacles

In just about every video featuring drones making aggressive maneuvers around obstacles there’s some amount of “cheating” going on. By that we mean the drones are typically relying on an external motion-capture system, as well as beefy offboard computers and a rock-solid wireless link. For doing research on aggressive maneuvers and other drone capabilities, it’s totally fine to “cheat” like that. But at some point you’ll want your drones to be able to fly anywhere and not just inside the controlled environment of a very expensive robotics lab.

With that goal in mind—and just US $1700 in hardware—MIT PhD student Andrew Barry has managed to fire a fixed-wing drone at some trees and not hit them, using only two cellphones worth of onboard computing hardware and real-time image processing.

Whoa.

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Startup Developing Autonomous Delivery Robots That Travel on Sidewalks

We’re pretty sure that delivery drones aren’t going to be a thing anytime soon. The reason that so many companies are breathlessly promising that it’s right around the corner is because having robots deliver stuff to you whenever you want it is a fantastic idea. At first, drones seem like a good idea because flying lets you get to places quickly while avoiding obstacles, and people have been stuck on this idea for years because it would be great if you could actually get it to work.

So far, it hasn’t worked, but that doesn’t mean that robots delivering things shouldn’t happen. And really, do consumers care whether it’s delivered specifically by autonomous aerial drone as long as they get their stuff relatively quickly and don’t have to change out of their pajamas? A startup called Starship Technologies, with offices in London and Tallinn, Estonia, has announced an autonomous delivery robot that promises to do everything that a delivery drone can do (and more), except from the ground and with a realistic chance of actually happening.

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Video Friday: Motorcycle Robot, Paper Plane Drone, and R2-D2 Fridge

Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your Automaton bloggers. We’re also going to start posting a weekly calendar of upcoming robotics events for the next few months; here’s what we have so far (send us your events!):

Humanoids 2015 – November 3-5, 2015 – Seoul, Korea
2015 Robot Film Fest – November 07, 2015 – Pittsburgh, Pa., USA
Asian Robotics Week – November 12-13, 2015 – Singapore
AAAI Fall Symposia – November 12-14, 2015 – Arlington, Va., USA
SF Bay Area Robotics Group Meetup – November 18, 2015 – San Francisco, Calif., USA
ROBOT 2015 - Iberian Robotics Conference – November 19-21, 2015 – Lisbon, Portugal
Robotics Expo – November 20-22, 2015 – Moscow, Russia
World Robotics Conference 2015 – November 23-25, 2015 – Beijing, China
Dronetech – November 26, 2015 – Bristol, U.K.
IREX 2015 – December 2-5, 2015 – Toyko, Japan
RoboUniverse Shanghai – December 8-10, 2015 – Shanghai, China
RoboUniverse San Diego – December 14-16, 2015 – San Diego, Calif., USA
 

Let us know if you have suggestions for next week, and enjoy today’s videos.

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Automaton

IEEE Spectrum's award-winning robotics blog, featuring news, articles, and videos on robots, humanoids, drones, automation, artificial intelligence, and more.
Contact us:  e.guizzo@ieee.org

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Erico Guizzo
 
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Evan Ackerman
 
 
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Jason Falconer
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Angelica Lim
 

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