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Sawyer: Rethink Robotics Unveils New Robot

Earlier this week, we went up to Boston to see something new from Rethink Robotics. They wouldn’t tell us what (not even a hint), but we bought plane tickets anyway, because Rodney Brooks told us that it wasn’t just some slightly different version of Baxter. And it wasn’t: it’s a completely different robot, stuffing all of the adaptive, collaborative technology that makes Baxter unique into a form factor that’s smaller, faster, stronger, and more precise.

This is Sawyer.

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Quadrotor With Wheels Can Drive Straight Up Walls

Most wall-climbing robots that we’re familiar with use one of just a few different techniques to stick to vertical surfaces. Generally, they’re either using magnets, vacuums, or the recently popular gecko foot adhesive pads. There are other more exotic systems as well, like microspines, cloth grabbing, elecrostatics, and hot glue.

No matter what technique you use, you’re always taking a risk with a climbing robot that doesn’t depend on external infrastructure: if your climbing system of choice ever fails, you robot will very shortly find itself transformed into a sad little pile of brokenness, thanks to gravity. To be safe, your climbing robot needs to be able to fly, too. 

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Universal Robots UR3 Arm Is Small and Nimble, Helps to Build Copies of Itself

This Danish family is growing. Universal Robots, based in Odense, Denmark, is announcing today a new addition to its line of industrial robotic arms. The new arrival is called UR3, and it’s smaller than the company’s earlier models, UR5 and UR10. Compared to its older siblings, the little UR3 looks light and nimble—and even “cute,” as one observer described it.

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MIT's DragonBot Evolving to Better Teach Kids

MIT introduced Kombusto, their dragon robot designed to teach stuff to preschoolers, back in 2011. Since then, the Personal Robots Group has been doing a substantial amount of research and experimentation to figure out how best to utilize the robot to productively interact with children. We have some updates on how it’s been going, along with a look at the brand new robot that MIT is developing to work with kids for months at a time.

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Video Friday: Robots Push It to the Limit, Designing a Drone, and Zoomer Kitty

Next week promises to be an amazing one for robotics. We’re getting word that there will be not one, not two, but three new robot announcements. We’ll have all the details for you here on the blog, of course. But today is Friday, and we know why you’re here. Let’s get to it.

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Universal Robots Wants to Conquer the Universe (of Robotic Arms)

Last month, Enrico Krog Iversen, the CEO of Universal Robots, showed up at the IEEE Spectrum office in New York City with a large cardboard box. Inside was a shiny, sleek gray-and-blue robotic arm, and before I could hand him my business card, Iversen and one of his engineers had set up the robot on the conference room table.

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What Might Happen If an Airliner Hit a Small Drone?

In January, I wrote about a study from the failure-analysis company Exponent that examined the threat very small drones—ones of just a kilogram or two—could pose to aircraft if there were a collision. That study did so by looking at the kinds of damage done by birds of similar mass.

Some of the people who read that post responded that it glossed over the differences in composition between drones and birds, suggesting that drones, with their many metal parts and lithium-ion batteries, would be inherently more damaging. That seemed a fair critique to me, so I contacted George Morse, an expert on foreign-object damage to aircraft, to get his opinion.

Morse’s company, Failure Analysis Service Technology, based in Prescott, Ariz., specializes in the analysis of aviation mishaps, foreign-object damage in particular. Morse himself has done more than 4000 engine investigations, most the result of ingestion of nuts or bolts or other runway detritus rather than birds. So he’s probably in as good a position as anyone to suggest what the results might be if an aircraft were to collide with a small drone weighing a kilogram or two.

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AI Researchers Propose a Machine Vision Turing Test

Computers are getting better each year at AI-style tasks, especially those involving vision—identifying a face, say, or telling if a picture contains a certain object. In fact, their progress has been so significant that some researchers now believe the standardized tests used to evaluate these programs have become too easy to pass, and therefore need to be made more demanding.

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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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Erico Guizzo
New York, N.Y.
Senior Writer
Evan Ackerman
Berkeley, Calif.
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Angelica Lim
Tokyo, Japan

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