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Flying, Walking Vampire Bat Robot Is Back

A few years ago, Ludovic Daler showed us a flying robot that he was working on that had the ability to “walk” by rotating its wings while on the ground. We love seeing designs like this that are completely, utterly out of the box, and Ludovic promised even more: 

We aim to make adaptive deployable wings... their shape could be adaptively modified to augment efficiency of forward flight, hover flight, and displacement on the ground.

With a little bit of inspiration from the common vampire bat (!), Ludovic has delivered with this updated robot that keeps its walking ability and now includes a foldable skeleton mechanism that lets it deploy and retract its wings.

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Robotbase's Personal Robot Promises Tons of Features, Impressive Hardware

As we expected, there were no major robot announcements at CES, because that’s not really what happens at CES. That’s not to say that there were no cool robots at CES, because there were. One of them was a personal robot Kickstarter project from New York City start-up Robotbase.

It caught our eye because it looks like it’s built from a TurtleBot foundation, which is a great way to start, but the rest of the robot looks really nice as well. Robotbase has ambitious plans for it, especially in terms of software. If it delivers on its promises, this could become a really compelling platform for consumers and developers—and we might even start believing that this whole personal robot thing is finally happening.

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ATLAS DRC Robot Is 75 Percent New, Completely Unplugged

We’ve always known that the ATLAS DRC humanoid robot was due for some serious upgrades before the DARPA Robotics Challenge Finals, because having a robot that’s tethered for power and safety is just not in the spirit of what the DRC is all about: moving towards robotic systems that can provide meaningful assistance during a real-world disaster scenario.

Back in November, we started hearing that DRC Track B teams were sending their ATLAS robots back to Google-owned Boston Dynamics for some tweaks, and today, DARPA has posted a video of the brand new ATLAS. And it really is almost entirely brand new.

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Video Friday: Humanoids Sing, Giant Eyeball Robot, and Kuka Ping Pong Revenge

CES 2015 has been over for a week, which means we’re only just starting to panic about the impending horror of CES 2016. We did see one or two cool robots at CES this year, although in our experience, it’s not a place where we’ve come to expect much in the way of groundbreaking robotics announcements. That said, we’re working up videos on the stuff that we did see, but for today, we’ve got a bunch of random CES robot videos to get you all caught up, plus the rest of the videos that we’ve been hanging onto while we’ve been up to our eyeballs in consumer electronics for the past few weeks.

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Rapere: An Intercept Drone to Seek and Destroy Other Drones

As drones get cheaper to buy and easier to use, they’re also going to get more and more annoying. Back when they were expensive and complicated and fragile and having one was a big deal, people would be careful with them, and flying them would be enough of an event that you wouldn’t be thinking about all the ways in which it’s possible to use drones to do things that are (at best) obnoxious or (slightly worse) illegal or (way worse) recklessly dangerous.

For most people on the ground, there’s not a lot that we can do about an unwanted drone buzzing around overhead, especially if it’s out of shotgun range and you don’t have a military-grade laser handy. The solution to this is obvious and inevitable: intercept drones that seek out and bring down other drones.

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Autonomous Modules Self-Assemble in Air and Water

We’ve seen a few different robotic construction projects that leverage stochasticity to assemble themselves into complex, ordered shapes or structures through a combination of time and random motion. Generally, the autonomous protorobot modules (is that a thing?) are active on some kind of artificial random motion generator like a table that shakes, but it’s much more fun to see autonomous modules assembling themselves using only the power of nature.

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This Robot Makes Doctor Visits Less Terrifying for Kids

Nobody (almost nobody) likes getting stabbed with needles, and kids seem to especially hate it. Getting vaccinated is an unpleasant process for everyone concerned, including the kids, their anxious parents, and nurses and physicians who are just trying to do their job. There are ways to coach all parties involved to be better at dealing with scary and painful procedures, and that’s where robots might help. Robots, with the proper programming, have proven (like, peer-reviewed proven) that they can be very effective pain coaches.

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Disney Robot Draws Giant Sketches on the Beach

We’ve seen robots drawing and painting before. But Beachbot does art on a whole different scale. Developed by a team from Disney Research Zurich and ETH Zurich, the robot can autonomously create giant sand drawings by dragging a rake-like tool on a beach.

Paul Beardsley, a principal research scientist at Disney Research Zurich, says he wanted to build an artist robot that could keep creating new artwork. Instead of using paint, he wanted to explore a less permanent medium. “Sand drawing is perfect because it’s an infinitely reuseable canvas,” he says.

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Sepios: ETH Zurich's Robot Cuttlefish

As much as we enjoyed all of the robots performing the ETH Zurich Autonomous Systems Lab’s video, one robot in particular stood out because it didn’t look familiar. You may have spotted it too, at about 1:30: a robot with four orthogonal fins called Sepios. We did some hardcore journalistic research (consisting primarily of a Google search) and found a website on it, along with a very cool video of the robot swimming in the ocean.

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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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