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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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Robots Hallucinate Humans to Aid in Object Recognition

Almost exactly a year ago, we posted about how Ashutosh Saxena's lab at Cornell was teaching robots to use their "imaginations" to try to picture how a human would want a room organized. The research was successful, with algorithms that used hallucinated humans (which are the best sort of humans) to influence the placement of objects performing significantly better than other methods. Cool stuff indeed, and now comes the next step: labeling 3D point-clouds obtained from RGB-D sensors by leveraging contextual hallucinated people.

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CMU's Zoe Robot Resumes Search for Life on Earth

Earth. Is there any life here? Nobody knows for sure, although Carl Sagan used the Galileo spacecraft to make an educated guess of "yes" back in 1993. Finding life on planets is a tricky business, as evidenced by the fact that we've so far completely struck out everywhere except our own backyard. It's going to take some practice to figure out where and how to look, which is why a robot named Zoë is heading back to the Atacama Desert in Chile.

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Disposable Drones Will Collect Data by Surfing Along with Hurricanes

Hurricanes are generally things that robots, humans, and everything else try to avoid. It's hard to study something, though, if you're constantly getting out of its way. There are some aircraft that are specifically designed for hurricane study, but they're big and expensive, and since they're stuffed full of humans, they can't do anything particularly risky. Such dangerous tasks are best left to robots, like this chubby little guy from the University of Florida.

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Is Anki the Hottest Robotics Company You've Never Heard Of?

Watching the live stream of Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) on Monday, I nearly fell off my chair when Apple CEO Tim Cook called on stage a company that, he said, is using the iOS platform "to bring artificial intelligence and robotics into our daily lives." What?! Did I just hear the word robotics come out of Tim Cook's mouth? And what company could this be?

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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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