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DIY Robots Make Brute-Force Security Hacks Possible

Many common types of software security systems only function because they assume that nobody has the time, interest, or energy to use brute force approaches to crack them. Take your phone, for example: it (probably) has a four digit number to unlock it. A human would likely not bother to try out all 10,000 combinations since it would be super boring, but robots don't get bored, so this sort of security doesn't dissuade them.

Digital Rights Management (DRM) often works the same way: by making it time consuming for people to copy things, the idea is that people just won't copy things. And it works. The two key words there, though, are "time consuming" and "people," and if you change "people" to "robots," time consuming ceases to be a factor. And so does the DRM, as this creative little LEGO robot shows.

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How to Control Hundreds of Dumb Robots with One Clever Remote

Computers have no trouble controlling huge swarms of robots, because the computer can just treat the swarm as a bunch of individually controllable units. But what happens when you have a swarm of really dumb robots, where they're all listening to the exact same controller? Like, you input a command to go left, and every single robot goes left? It seems like this would severely limit what can be done with the swarm, but thanks to some sophisticated algorithms and real world randomness, researchers from Rice University have shown that you can get a swarm of robots like this to do absolutely anything you want. 

And also, the robots are equipped with laser turrets. Laser turrets.

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Video Friday: Crossing the Alps, DRC Robots, and Kirobo Goes to Space

It's barely September, but here at Automaton, we're already looking ahead to November. We've just booked our tickets to IROS (the IEEE International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems) along with IREX (the International Robot Exhibition), both held in Tokyo from November 3 to November 10. How are we going to contain our excitement for the next two months? Videos. Lots of videos.

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Hoaloha Robotics Developing Socially Assistive Hardware Platform

Last we heard from Hoaloha Robotics was back in September of 2010, when the company was initially founded by Microsoft veteran Tandy Trower, who'd led the Microsoft Robotics Group for several years. According to some press at the time, Hoaloha was all about "developing a common interface and software that will make assistive robots easy to use and customize with applications, similar to the way Apple standardized the interface and application model for smartphones." In other words, software, not hardware, that'll enable service robots to assist people without robotics experience directly in their homes. It's now three years on, though, and it sounds like things have changed.

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Black Is the New Black with AR Drone Refresh

Parrot's latest AR Drone upgrade, the Power Edition, features a new piano black hull, up to 36 minutes of flight time, and some swanky new prop colors. Plus, watch an AR Drone reenact the exploits of Darius the Great and Xerxes at the Bosphorus.

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Video Friday: Retro Robots, Mobile Manipulation, and Mario

I have to imagine that when you work at an industrial robotics company, it must be a lot of fun to come up with trade show demos. You can throw practicality and efficiency entirely out the window, and instead try and come up with the most entertaining thing that you possibly can, whether it's fighting with light sabers or battling humans with Wiimotes. So here's to you, Industrial Robot Demo Maker Person. We salute you, and your latest idea involving robots, slot cars, and Mario. And there's more, of course, because it's Video Friday.

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NASA Lets Curiosity Rover Loose on Mars in Autonomous Driving Mode

It is constantly amazing to me that we have a robot (two robots!) driving around on Mars right now. On MARS. If we were being grumpy about it, however, we might call a robot like Curiosity a (very sophisticated) remote controlled vehicle, since it's "driven" by humans back here on Earth. Only, it isn't anymore, not entirely: on Tuesday, JPL gave Curiosity her head, letting the rover decide where to drive itself.

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Futuristic Concept Cleans Your House With Robot Flies

While we mostly like to post news about real robots doing real robot-y things, it's sometimes fun to take a look at impossible concepts, especially if they're a.) utterly insane and b.) provide enough foundation for us to convince ourselves that they're not actually completely entirely totally impossible, even if they are. 

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Automaton

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

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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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