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Whoa: Boston Dynamics Announces New WildCat Quadruped Robot

Boston Dynamics has just updated its YouTube channel with some new videos. One of them is an update on Atlas. Another is an update on LS3. And the third is this: WildCat, a totally new quadruped robot based on Cheetah, and out of nowhere, there's this video of it bounding and galloping around outdoors, untethered, at up to 25 km/h (16 mph). Whoa.

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What Should a Robot's Face Look Like?

At some point, we'll all have assistive robots in our homes. Even the most optimistic projections (and we're not responsible for any of those) put it a ways out, and the first place these robots will show up will likely be in an elder care capacity as opposed to doing our laundry. There has been a lot of (appropriate) emphasis on function, but form is very important as well, and the big question (or one of them, at least) is how human we should try to make these robots, and how much it matters.

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Meet NASA's Futuristic Drone Research Lab

Last week, NASA and AUVSI invited a carefully selected, elite group of media (which obviously included IEEE Spectrum) to take a tour of the Unmanned Aircraft Systems programs at NASA Dryden. The Dryden Flight Research Center (DFRC) is located approximately in the middle of nowhere, inside Edwards Air Force Base on a huge dry lake bed out in the Mojave desert. The remoteness of the area, plus the availability of over 100 square kilometers of empty flat lake bed to land on if necessary, makes Dryden a fantastic place to test out all kinds of futuristic and occasionally bizarre aircraft. And we got to meet a few of them.

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Robotic Boat Hits 1000-Mile Mark in Transatlantic Crossing

“Scout,” a 4-meter-long autonomous boat built by a group of young DIYers, is attempting to cross the Atlantic Ocean. It is traveling from Rhode Island, where it launched on 24 August, to Spain, where all being well it will arrive in a few months’ time.

Scout has now gone about 1000 miles (1600 kilometers) of its planned 3700-mile (5900 kilometer) journey. Should it complete this voyage successfully, its passage will arguably belong in the history books.

I say “arguably,” because it won’t be the first time a robotic vessel has crossed the Atlantic: Scarlet Knight, a sea-going robot fielded by researchers at Rutgers University, did that in 2009. But Scout stands to beat out Scarlet in my mind, for several reasons.

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Video Friday: PR2 Surrogates, Zombie F-16s, and Bot & Dolly's Box

Deep down inside, I think I might want to be a robot. It's a distinct possibility, anyway. I mean, it would explain a lot about this borderline unhealthy obsession that I've got going on, right? Immersive virtual reality is very close to making that all possible, and all you need is a little bit of hardware. See how it works in today's Video Friday.

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ESA Developing Rocket-Hopping Mars Robot

You've got to give credit to the European Space Agency: they're totally willing to embrace some, let's say, creative ways of exploring other planets. Just last week we wrote about their idea of sending robot snakes to Mars, and now it's CO2 powered hopping rocketbots that scavenge fuel from the Martian atmosphere.

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Rethink Robotics Upgrades Baxter to 2.0 Software

When we visited Rethink Robotics last year, Mitch Rosenberg, Rethink’s vice president for marketing and product management, told us that "the day you buy the robot is the day that it’ll perform the least well. Over time, your investment will become more and more valuable because the software will become more and more valuable." With the release of Baxter's 2.0 software, value has been added.

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Boston Dynamics Gets $10 Million from DARPA for New Stealthy, Bulletproof LS3

You'd think that Boston Dynamics would be all kinds of busy building (and supporting) a small army of Atlas robots for the DARPA Robotics Challenge. But, it looks like they've somehow managed to find the time to continue working on all of their other systems as well, like BigDog's big brother, LS3. Last week, DARPA committed to investing an extra $10 million towards a more robust and (eventually) deployable robot.

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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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