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Video Wednesday: Robot Film Fest, Hexacopter Rescue, and RoboCup 2013

What is this? Video Wednesday?! Shocking, I know. Apparently, there's some U.S. holiday on Thursday celebrating explosives or something, and I have been told that both Thursday and Friday are therefore "days off" at IEEE Spectrum (and most of the rest of the U.S.). I'm not entirely sure what a "day off" is, but because two of them are happening anyway, we're going to stuff all of this week's robot videos into Wednesday instead.

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DARPA Robotics Challenge Follow-Up: Competition Videos, Bloopers

When DARPA's Virtual Robotics Challenge (VRC) wrapped last Thursday, we got all the results, but not much more. What we wanted was to see some of the actual competition runs themselves, especially the ones that went either very right or very wrong. DARPA released some videos over the weekend giving us a taste of how things went, and we were also treated to an extensive public Q&A session with DARPA program manager Gill Pratt and Nate Koenig of the OSRF.

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Video Friday: Japan's Space Humanoid, Robot Golfer, and Most Destructive Bot Ever

Space. The Final Frontier. These are (or will be) the voyages of a star-shipped robot. Its mission of some unspecified duration: to chat up the astronauts:

"Russia was the first to go outer space, the U.S. was the first to go to the moon, we want Japan to be the first to send a robot-astronaut to space that can communicate with humans."

Quick! Somebody give Robonaut a working mouth! 

Japan's Kirobo spacebot performs on video, and piles more robots performing on video: welcome to Video Friday, humans.

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What Else Can We Do With Autonomous Military Vehicles?

Do you have a robot car yet? Me neither. The military, on the other hand, has a bunch of them. These UGVs (Unmanned Ground Vehicles) are mostly used for hauling gear, sort of like mules used to, back in the day. Lockheed Martin even had one called MULE. It was a nice idea, getting robots to do this, but it's not simple and it's not cheap, and the military has been cutting back. So, the companies involved have been trying to figure out what else they can do with their UGVs.

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Self-Burying Robot Could Be Hiding in Your Backyard Right Now

Bio-inspired robotics has been all over the place. We've got robots that walk, run, climb, fly, crawl, and swim. We've been kind of missing out on a big domain, though, and that's animals that dig. You know, like moles. Unlike just about any other sort of robot (or animal), you could have a whole family of moles chillin' within just a few feet of you (assuming you're close to the ground, of course) and you'd probably have no idea. And that's appealing for certain robotic applications:

"One use case is for this robot to drive or be air-dropped to a location close to a target, bury itself to be hidden, perform video surveillance, and send that video back to an operator."

Yeah, that's pretty sweet.

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Germans Developing Robot Ape

Here's why I think building a robot ape is a clever idea: like a real ape, it's sort of a cross between a humanoid and a quadruped, in that it spends most of the time moving around on four limbs. But, it can still stand up on its hind legs and give itself some extra height and a couple of manipulators when it needs to. I'm not sure that this specific capability is what DFKI (the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence) is working on with their "ape-like robotic system," but hey, they've got a fully armed and legged and operational robot ape, so I'm pretty sure that this biquadrupedal manipulation thing is inevitable now.

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Video Friday: Tofu Squishing, UAV Tricks, and Robots with Too Many Legs

There is most definitely such a thing as too many legs. I get two. I understand four. Even six makes sense. But let's not get crazy, you know? Because however capable a whole bunch of legs might make a robot, its creepiness factor just goes up exponentially. I mean, forget that whole human-like Uncanny Valley thing, let's just go easy on the legs, okay?

Or, you can pull a Harvard, and just totally ignore that with all of your scuttling little insect robots that are probably crawling up your leg right now. Make sure and thoroughly squish all of them, and then wash your hands and come back for the rest of Video Friday.

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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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