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Orbotix Rolls Out Speedy Next-Gen Sphero

Sphero is a robotic ball that you can drive around with your smartphone. It's a lot fun, and we've been especially impressed with the way that you can get down into its software and mess with it, changing it from a relatively simple remote controlled toy into a real autonomous robot. Heck, you can even control it with ROS.

Today, Orbotix is introducing the Sphero 2.0, packed with new hardware that makes it faster, smarter, faster, brighter, and faster than ever. And did we mention it's faster? Because it's definitely faster.

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Florida to Test Drones for Mosquito Search and Destroy

Is there anything worse than mosquitoes? Yes. Lots of things. But mosquitoes are pretty bad. Besides being buzzy and itchy and annoying, they can transmit nasty diseases including malaria and West Nile virus, even in civilized (mostly) places like Florida. The issue with mosquitoes is that they're everywhere, and if you've ever tried to get rid of even one mosquito, you can imagine how hard mass eradication is. In Florida, they're about to experiment with aerial drones to see if they can help.

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National Geographic Robots Get Intimate With Lions

There is most definitely such a thing as getting way too close to lions. Way too close means close enough that lions can chase you down and tackle you and bite your legs off. Don't let this happen to you. Next time you find yourself in the Serengeti trying to snap the perfect lion picture, just do what the pros over at National Geographic do and enlist the assistance of a little tracked camera robot.

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Video Friday: Robot Fighting, Slime Mold Faces, and RoboSub 2013

Next week, we'll be heading to Washington DC to check out AUVSI Unmanned Systems 2013, which is the big conference for military robotics. We know that military robotics can polarizing issue that lots of people tend to get upset about, but it's hard to get around the fact that with a military-sized budget, you can build some pretty awesome robots. And sometimes, the technologies in those military bots do eventually trickle down to make our lives better, so we're going to go into this with an open mind. Until we get there, distract yourself with some ultra-pasteurized robot videos!

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X-47B Gets Two More Years of Tests to Prep Navy for Robot Warplanes

Last month, Northrop Grumman's X-47B Unmanned Combat Air thingy (Vehicle or System, take your pick) did a mostly excellent job at autonomously taking off from, and more importantly landing on, an aircraft carrier. Once everything was shown to work, the U.S. Navy was like, "awesome job, now never fly those things again," and the two X-47Bs were slated for permanent museum display. Fortunately for fans of big, expensive, scary-looking flying robots, the Navy has just changed its mind.

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White House to Host Robotics Hangout on Friday

If it were up to us, robotics would be a top priority for the United States Government. A top priority. Unfortunately for us (and fortunately for everyone else) we are most definitely not in charge of those sorts of policy decisions. It's always nice, however, when people who do have a little bit of pull get interested in robotics, and on Friday, the Obama Administration will be discussing the National Robotics Initiative with a bunch of robocelebrities on a Google+ Hangout.

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NASA's Curiosity Rover Turns One on Mars

Depending on what time zone you're in, today is the first anniversary (or birthday) of Curiosity, NASA's intrepid little Volkswagen-sized Mars rover. We've got a soft spot for Curiosity, partially because it's one of the most awesome robots ever constructed, but also because we were camped out at JPL to watch her land last year. The picture above is of a TV monitor in the JPL press room, showing the first two images that we got back from the surface of Mars. It was epic.

NASA and JPL are celebrating this week with some cool videos, the last of which has to be one of the most touching tributes to a robot we've ever heard.

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Gasbot Sniffs Out Climate Destruction With Lasers

Jobs don't get much more dirty than being the person who has to hike around landfills looking for sources of stinkyness. It's an important job, though, because stinkyness means methane, and methane means you're killing the planet. Yes, you. But seriously, figuring out where landfills are leaking is a critical and tedious and decidedly unpleasant thing, and you know what that means: bring on the robots!

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Video Friday: Baxter Gets a Turbo Mode, Nao Steps on Things, and Robonaut Doesn't Like You

Video Friday is late today. It's late because we were too depressed to get out of bed this morning. Last night, we heard from a member of the Kinect for Windows developer team that they have "no plans" to release open source drivers for the next generation Kinect, meaning that all of the awesome and magical things that the original Kinect enabled for robotics won't evolve into even more awesome and more magical things with Microsoft's new sensor. 

Sigh.

All we can do is try to move forward and make ourselves feel better in the only way we know how: with robot videos.

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Flying Walking Robot Turns Wings Into Legs

Here's a new robotics term for you to memorize: multi-modal locomotion. It means locomoting in multi-modes, and that just means getting around in more than one different way. Most animals are multi-modal: they can walk and swim, or walk and fly. This isn't a coincidence, because there are clear advantages to being able to do move multi-modally, with capability and efficiency coming out near the top of the list. The disadvantage is that generally, you need a substantial amount of extra hardware for each mode of locomotion, but EPFL has managed to create a UAV that can use its wings to walk.

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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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