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Video Friday: Fast Running Robot, Nao Debates an Ape, and Hall of Fame

Happy belated Video Friday! We're running late today, and this is totally, completely Evan's fault. Evan, if you're reading this, dude, who said you could go on vacation and take time off from the blog? Wait a minute. Er, now I remember, you told me about your vacation like a month ago, and I agreed to keep things going until you return. Alright. Just come back soon. We're scrambling here, man. Please.

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Panasonic Revives Hospital Delivery Robot

Panasonic has been working on its Hospi hospital delivery robot since back in 2004. When it was first introduced a decade ago, it was too expensive and not capable enough to effectively compete with existing hospital infrastructure, and Panasonic managed to sell a total of two (yes, two) robots.

But it's now 2014, robots are way better, and healthcare is way more expensive than it used to be. After a reintroduction at IREX in 2013, the newest version of the Hospi robots have been successful enough in hospital trials that Panasonic is actually starting to sell them again.

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Fast Robot Arm Catches Flying Objects

Robots that deal with fast-moving objects tend to handle them in one of two ways: way one is to assume that the object is going to keep doing whatever it's been doing, allowing you to predict what's going to happen with it without having to work too hard. Way two is to instead constantly watch what the object is doing, and then continually update what's going to happen to it by working very hard. Way one is unreliable because the Universe is unreliable and assumptions are dangerous, and way two is very computationally intensive, which often makes it too slow to feed useful instructions through a controller to a robot.

At the Learning Algorithms and Systems Laboratory at EPFL, they're leveraging fast vision, fast computers, fast controllers, fast motors, programming by demonstration, and object modeling to be able to snatch unpredictably unbalanced flying objects straight out of the air.

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Parrot's Bebop Drone Has Better Video, Longer Range, and Oculus Rift Support

Last September, Parrot unveiled its latest AR Drone upgrade, the Power Edition, with longer flying time and new colors, and the company also revealed it was hard at work testing a new GPS autopilot system. Then early this year at CES, Parrot released a brand new quadrotor called the MiniDrone

That's all really cool and we figured that, okay, it's going to be a while (like, a year) before we see any sort of new flying robot from Parrot. We apparently underestimated Parrot by a lot, because last week, they gave us a look at a completely new drone that includes a bunch of unique features that are totally worth getting excited about.

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Video Friday: 3D-Printing Drones, Telepresence Robots at Home, and Baxter Does Magic

This week's Video Friday is going to be a little bit light, probably because a lot of the people who normally post cool stuff (students and research labs) are feverishly working on their PowerPoint presentations ahead of ICRA 2014, which kicks off in just a few Fridays from now.

This lull usually happens before a major conference, although we always get caught up (and then some) with videos as soon as the conference opens. Our preliminary schedule has just over 150 talks on it, and that's not including workshops, plenary talks, lunch talks, and a special "Pecha Kucha Night of Robotics" that looks like a lot of fun. So for a taste of what's to come, today's first video is a preview of an ICRA talk.

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Cartwheeling Spider Robots Conquer Sand Dunes

In Morocco, there are spiders that know how to do cartwheels. They can cartwheel down sand dunes, and also up sand dunes, which is more than a little bit remarkable. The scientist who found them, Ingo Rechenberg (a professor at the Technical University of Berlin), does what you do when you find an animal with a unique and ingenious mode of locomotion: you make a robot that does the same sort of thing.

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Researchers Want to Build Swarm of 1000 Droplet Robots

As electronic components plummet in price thanks to the insane consumer-driven pace of mobile device development, it's becoming more and more realistic to talk about building robots that are cheap enough to be disposable. The appeal of doing this is that you can build lots of them, and then throw them all together into a giant swarm that has capabilities that individual robots (even very complex and expensive ones) don't. And by "lots," we're talking hundreds. Or thousands.

The last time we heard about swarm robots on this scale was with Kilobots (which are for sale, by the way), but now a group at University of Colorado Boulder is looking for some help to crowdfund a huge swarm of their own little robots, called Droplets.

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Emergency Response Teams Combine Mobile Robots, Drones, and Dogs

No matter how much time and energy and money we put into a robot, it's going to be a very very very long time before we come up with anything that's anywhere close to as capable as a dog. From a robotics perspective, dogs are utterly amazing: they're fast, efficient, able to cover all sorts of terrain, can understand both verbal and gestural commands, and they run on dog food.

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Older Adults Don't Entirely Trust Robots With Kids

Sigh. Kids these days. Video games, smartphones, and social media are ruining an entire generation. If we weren't unapologetic geeks ourselves, we'd be upset about this, and worried that technology is actively corrupting our youth. But even though we aren't too worried about this issue, here's something we (and anyone who cares about robots) should worry about: according to a study published by researchers at Penn State, adults over age 60 are concerned that the next thing to negatively affect young people is going to be...robots.

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

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

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