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NASA Wants Help Training Valkyrie Robots to Go to Mars

NASA’s Valkyrie robot didn’t have a very good time at the DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC) Trials. There are a bunch of good reasons for this, but our concern has always been that NASA would see the DRC Trials as a failure of the robot and the program and just give up. We should have had more faith, because NASA is in this for the long game, and so is Valkyrie. And where does the long game end? Mars. And beyond.

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Video Friday: Small Bebionic Hand, RoboRaven at Night, and Pepper on Sale

For some reason, companies making robotic prosthetics have mostly focused on designing systems for men. This could be because they have to design them for someone, and men are a reasonable place to start.

But women need prosthetics too. As do children, and for that matter, dudes who aren’t built like linebackers. The Bebionic small hand has been downsized by 30 percent to the size of an average woman’s hand, without sacrificing any strength or functionality. See it in action, plus more videos because Friday.

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Here's How NASA Will Grab an Asteroid Using a Spiky Robot Gripper

Within the next five years, NASA is planning to launch a robotic spacecraft toward a small asteroid. Once there, the robot will find a small boulder lying on the surface of the asteroid, pick it up, and bring it back to Earth for us to have a look at. It’s an ambitious mission, and we’re only just starting to hear details about what’s going to be involved in getting all this to work.

Earlier this week, we stopped by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., to check out some of the prototype hardware that’ll be grabbing a boulder off of an asteroid in the early 2020s.

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Fetch Robotics Secures Massive $20 Million Investment from SoftBank

Fetch Robotics, a robotics startup in Silicon Valley that didn’t exist a year ago, has just announced a staggering US $20 million Series A funding round led by SoftBank, along with additional funding from seed investors O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures and Shasta Ventures.

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DURUS: SRI's Ultra-Efficient Walking Humanoid Robot

While disaster robots were making their way through the DARPA Robotics Challenge courses, over in the exhibit area outside, there was another competition taking place: an endurance challenge, also sponsored by DARPA, where robots from Sandia National Labs and SRI International slowly walked on treadmills with the goal of demonstrating how ultra-efficient they could be.

What does ultra-efficient mean in the context of walking robots? Think humanoid walking that’s 20 to 30 times more efficient than than Boston Dynamics’ ATLAS. A full size humanoid robot with that level of efficiency would able to operate for anywhere from 4 to 6 hours on a single charge.

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Robotic Tools Understand What You Want to Do, Help You Do It

The idea of robots that are “collaborative” is usually about robots that are safe for humans to work next to. Sometimes, a collaborative robot might assist a human by performing one step of a task while a human performs another step of the same task. What’s a bit more unusual are robots that are collaborative in that they work directly with a human, augmenting the abilities of that human with intelligence, not just strength.

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Video Friday: PR2 With Nailgun, Snake Bot Tango, and Robot vs Sword Master

Over the past few weeks, between ICRA and the DRC Finals, we’ve had enough incredible and exciting and amazing and stupendous robots to last us the rest of the summer. But of course, while we were focused on Seattle and Pomona, other cool robotics stuff was happening. We’re going to get you caught up on some of it today, in a post that we promise will have zero DARPA Robotics Challenge content, because after more than a dozen posts in like five days, we all need just a little bit of a break.

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DARPA Robotics Challenge: Amazing Moments, Lessons Learned, and What's Next

The DARPA Robotics Challenge is over. It will certainly be remembered as one of the defining robotics competitions of the decade—full of drama, hardship, and inspiration. We brought you as much of it as we could, including a detailed look at the winning robot, a fun compilation of robots falling, and our impressions of the first day of the competition. And we still have a lot more to come! But for now, to cap it all off, here are things that stood out to us about the final day of the DRC Finals, and a hint of what to look forward to in the future.

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How South Korea's DRC-HUBO Robot Won the DARPA Robotics Challenge

On Saturday, Team KAIST from South Korea emerged as the winner of the DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC) in Pomona, Calif., after its robot, an adaptable humanoid called DRC-HUBO, beat out 22 other robots from five different countries, winning the US $2 million grand prize. The robot’s “transformer” ability to switch back and forth from a walking biped to a wheeled machine proved key to its victory. Many robots lost their balance and collapsed to the ground while trying to perform tasks such as opening a door or operating a drill. Not DRC-HUBO. Its unique design allowed it to perform tasks faster and, perhaps more important, stay on its feet—and wheels.

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