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Video Monday: Agile Justin, Baby Elephant Robot, and More From ICRA 2014

We're back from the 2014 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) in Hong Kong, and as always, there was a stupendous amount of incredible research that was presented across three days of conference and two days of workshops. We've already posted a bunch of cool stuff, and we've got more in the works, but for now, here's a stack of awesome research videos for you to have a look at.

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Cut the Cord: Mobile Robots Deliver Electricity to Your Appliances

Having to plug things into wall outlets is a recurring irritation of modern life. There are never enough of them, they're never where you need them to be, and when you do plug into one, you end up with tangles of cords strewn all over the floor.

Now Japanese researchers might have a solution, and it involves robots (of course). Their idea is to use autonomous mobile robots that deliver electricity to battery packs with outlets attached anywhere around the house, and they've built a proof-of-concept system to show how it would work.

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Meet Pepper, Aldebaran's New Personal Robot With an "Emotion Engine"

French robotics company Aldebaran unveiled today its newest robot, a friendly humanoid named Pepper that seems determined to make everyone smile. Pepper talks, gesticulates, and zips by on wheels. And it has an “emotion engine,” designed to understand how people are feeling and react accordingly.

Aldebaran built the robot for SoftBank, the Japanese telecom giant, which plans to start selling it to consumers in Japan next February for 198,000 yen, or about US $1,900. The robot will be produced by Taiwanese electronics manufacturer Foxconn, which makes iPhones and other Apple products.

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This Printable Lamp Can Fold Itself Up for You

Being able to print out a functional robot is a beautiful dream of cheap, accessible robotics for everyone. And right now, it's impossible.

But we're making progress fast. A few years ago, we took a look at a project from MIT, Harvard, and the University of Pennsylvania that was developing soft robots with flexible, printed circuits. Last year, we met a robot that could be printed out flat, fold itself up, and then crawl around with the addition of a motor and battery.

And this year at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), Harvard researchers demonstrated a proof-of-concept lamp that can be printed out, folds itself, and includes both a mechanical switch and a capacitive touch sensor.

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Researchers Develop Robot That Lets Them Feel Softness of Virtual Breasts

Photo: Gifu University
The "multi-fingered haptic interface robot" created by researchers at Gifu University.

Japanese researchers have developed a haptic device that attaches to a person's hand and can simulate the softness of different materials by producing realistic tactile sensations on individual fingertips. According to the researchers, the device could serve as a training tool, helping medical students become skilled in exams that involve feeling parts of the body with the hands. One particular application, they say, would be teaching students how to palpate breasts when looking for lumps.

The researchers, from Gifu University in Japan, call their invention a "multi-fingered haptic interface robot," and they presented it yesterday at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) in Hong Kong.

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Here's That Extra Pair of Robot Arms You've Always Wanted

Supernumerary Robotic Limbs (SRLs) are robotic limbs that, when worn, give you more limbs than you'd normally have. In other words, they're not robotic limbs designed to replace biological limbs that you might be missing, but rather robotic limbs designed to augment the number of limbs that you have already.

MIT researchers have been developing SRLs that can help you do stuff that would be annoying, uncomfortable, or impossible to do on your own. Today at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) in Hong Kong, they presented their latest SRL prototypes, with one model featuring a pair of limbs that spring from your shoulders and another with limbs that extend from your waist.

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Video Friday: Inflatable Robots, Walk Again Project, and Nao at School

Evan is back! Sort of. Let's say he's 40 percent back. As I write this, he's in his pajamas in a Hong Kong hotel, getting ready for an insane week of robotics at ICRA, which officially kicks off on Monday. But being the awesome dude he is, he still helped me put together today's Video Friday post. Here we go!

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Researchers Build Fast Running Robot Inspired by Velociraptor

UPDATE May 30 1:09 pm EST: The KAIST folks tell me Raptor momentarily achieved 48 km/h, but they decided to use 46 km/h as its official top speed because that's the speed the robot can run in a completely stable manner. And there appears to be some conflicting reports on whether Cheetah's top speed is 45.5 km/h or 47 km/h (I contacted Boston Dynamics trying to clarify but haven't heard back). So given the uncertainties involved, we're declaring this a tie. At least until we can have our robot race!

Researchers have long been interested in fast-running robots with powerful, agile legs. In particular, several groups have focused on bio-inspired designs based on cheetahs.

But when a team at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) set out to create a new sprinting robot, they didn't look at big cats; instead, they found inspiration in a completely different kind of creature: a velociraptor.

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Telemba Turns Your Old Roomba and Tablet Into a Telepresence Robot

Meet Telemba, which its creators say is the "world's cheapest telepresence robot."

Like other telepresence robots, Telemba works as your robotic body at a remote location: using a computer, you can drive Telemba around and interact with people remotely. You see what the robot sees, and you can attend meetings or just hang out with friends.

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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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