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Interview: Scott Hassan on Willow Garage and the Future of Suitable Technologies

When Suitable Technologies announced that it was absorbing most of Willow Garage last week, we pinged both companies to see if we could get any additional information about what was going on. Yesterday, we spoke with Scott Hassan, "the key software architect/developer of Google" and the founder of both Willow Garage and Suitable Technologies, about why it was the right time to close down Willow, and what this means for Suitable.

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Video Friday: Atlas Unboxing, RHex Plays Fetch, and Terminators Get Real

I'm still waiting for an Atlas robot to arrive on my doorstep from Boston Dynamics (since I'm a famous and occasionally handsome Internet journalist, I'm assuming they're sending me one for free), but some other robotics groups have gotten theirs first. This hopefully means that we're about to see a huge number of videos show up on YouTube featuring Atlases doing all of the stuff that Boston Dynamics doesn't want you to see. Like those butt scoots from the simulation challenge. Check out some of the very first videos of Atlas in the wild, and more (more!), because it's Video Friday.

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Is Spiri the Programmable Quadrotor You've Always Wanted?

There's an autonomous, programmable drone on Kickstarter right now called Spiri. For under $600, you get a quadrotor that runs ROS and can autonomously execute flight commands so that you don't have to worry about all the tricky stuff like not crashing. It includes Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, cameras, GPS, an accelerometer, a gyro, a magnetometer, temperature and pressure sensors, and a nifty 3D time-of-flight camera system. It's designed to be a platform that you can easily innovate on without having to deal with hardware.

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Majority of Willow Garage Employees Move to Suitable Technologies, PR2 Still Supported

Suitable Technologies, the Willow Garage spinout that created the Beam remote presence system, announced today that it has "retained a majority of employees from Willow Garage." A press release sent out this morning and also posted on Willow Garage's blog says Suitable will "use the combined resources to further product development, sales, and customer support." As for Willow itself, the release only says it will "continue to support customers of its PR2 personal robotics platform and sell its remaining stock of PR2 systems."

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Giant Solar-Powered UAVs Are Atmospheric Satellites

The largest robot in the AUVSI expo hall last week belonged to Titan Aerospace. It was a model of their Solara 50 robotic atmospheric satellite, and they had to chop off the tail and most of the wings to get it to fit. The Solara is intended to lift a payload to 20,000 meters and then keep it there for five years, running entirely on solar power. It functions a bit like a satellite, except substantially cheaper and much more versatile. And, you can get it back when you're done.

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Lockheed Martin Developing Flying Robotic Car Carrier

At the AUVSI trade show last week, we spent most of our time wandering around looking for robots that weren't just slightly different flavors of quadrotors, or little airplanes with cameras on them. Things weren't as wacky and awesome as they have been in past years (possibly because the market is maturing a bit), but we still managed to dig up some very cool stuff. And one of the very coolest things was Lockheed Martin's Transformer TX, a DARPA project that'll result in an unmanned payload transport system that can deliver just about anything. Even a car, with you in it.

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Video Friday: Military Robots, Kissing Nao, and Automated Recycling

Well, we're back from AUVSI's Unmanned Systems expo in Washington, D.C. And we're super jet lagged and in desperate need of a vacation. We know better than anyone, though, that the robot news never ever stops, and it especially never ever stops on Fridays. We'll have some great AUVSI content for you next week, but today, it's all about the videos.

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Tiny Jumping Robot Finds Room for a Tail

We first met Jianguo Zhao's jumping robot at ICRA 2011. We were impressed because of how tiny it was, but also because it could change direction, self-right, and jump, all using just one single motor and a clever arrangement of gears. A new upgrade (inspired by research from UC Berkely) adds a tail to the mix, giving this little robot the ability to orient itself in midair. Oh, and it can also run, because why not.

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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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