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Dyson's Robot Vacuum Has 360-Degree Camera, Tank Treads, Cyclone Suction

All of our wild speculation about Dyson's mystery video (well, maybe not all) has just been confirmed with the announcement this morning of the Dyson 360 Eye robot vacuum cleaner. If it looks familiar, it's because we got some of our guesses exactly right: the new robot looks just like the patent image we posted, and it's got a vision-based localization system that relies on a panoramic camera. Even those tank treads that we thought were a joke? Totally not a joke.

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NASA Developing Air Traffic Control System for Drones

If you don't think that drones are a problem today, you have to admit that drones will be a problem soon. As they get even cheaper and easier to fly (and especially as they start to fly themselves more and more), everyone is going to be able to have a drone. And even worse than that, all those companies who came up with ridiculous drone delivery publicity stunts will start to seriously think that "hey, maybe this can work!"

I'm pretty sure that the whole urban drone delivery thing is still probably never (or almost never) going to happen, but under some very specific circumstances, certain aspects of it (like repetitive point-to-point delivery) might make sense to put into practice. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration is a little bit behind on all of this, but NASA is working to get ahead, by developing an autonomous drone traffic management program. 

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Disney Research Patents ETH Zurich's PuppetCopter

Disney has a research lab in Zurich, right next door to ETH Zurich. In the past, we've seen a lot of collaborations between Disney and ETH, often in the form of fun robot concepts and prototypes. So, we weren't at all surprised to hear that Disney filed a patent for an "Aerial Display System With Marionettes Articulated and Supported by Airborne Devices," because we spotted a prototype at ETH Zurich last year, and its name is Maurice.

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What Happened to NASA's Valkyrie Robot at the DRC Trials, and What's Next

NASA's Valkyrie robot is, arguably, one of the most sophisticated and potentially capable humanoids in existence. The key here is "potentially," because in addition to the very fancy and expensive hardware that was put into the robot at its conception, it has to have the software and controls that enable it to, you know, do stuff. Reliably.

Valkyrie didn't have that great of a time at the DARPA Robotics Challenge Trials, and we never quite figured out why. We certainly noticed that we didn't hear much about the robot after it didn't make the cut last December. So what's up with Val?

At the Robotics Science and Systems conference at UC Berkeley last month, we got an update on Valkyrie, including a description of what went wrong at the DRC and NASA's plans for the robot going forward.

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Five Myths and Facts About Robotics Technology Today

Ever faster processors, cheaper sensors, abundant open-source code, ubiquitous connectivity, and the advent of 3D printing are some of the forces behind the recent proliferation of robots. As I see things, these forces will only get stronger, and as more robots become part of our lives—in homes, offices, factories, hospitals, and many other places—we'll inevitably face challenges involving our adoption and use of robots.

Some observers are voicing their fears about a decline in human-human interaction, while others warn of an irreversible and senseless loss of jobs, with robots taking over tasks that, they argue, should not be performed by machines (such as caring for the elderly). Trade-offs will certainly be part of our growing reliance on robotics and automation. And it will be up to us to manage these trade-offs, just as we have with other technologies such as electricity, the automobile, aviation, nuclear power, computers, and the Internet.

As a VC looking for investment opportunities in robotics, I talk to lots of different people about their views on the future of this industry. Many times what I hear from these people are totally contradictory, so I often have to come up with my own conclusions. Below I present a list of what I consider are five pressing issues concerning robotics—and I identify each as a myth or a fact. My hope is that they can provoke some thought and debate among engineers, policy makers, consumers, and investors. Let me know what you think.

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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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