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Little Robotic Leg Investigates Enormous Dinosaur Locomotion

I don’t know about you, but I haven’t seen any dinosaurs lately. I mean, I’ve seen lots of birds, some lizards, and the occasional crocodile, but none of those massive Jurassic Park-style dinos. For paleontologists who want to know how a 60- to 70-ton dinosaur got around, this lack of subjects to study is a bit of an obstacle. At Drexel University, researchers are 3D printing small scale robotic models of the legs of one of the largest dinosaurs ever found to figure out how it was able to keep itself moving.

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Why You Want Your Drone to Have Emotions

There’s been a lot of research on how humans interact with robots. In fact, there’s a whole field for it called HRI (Human-Robot Interaction), with its own flagship conference (that IEEE co-sponsors) going on right now in New Zealand. The majority of the research in this field focuses on how humans interact with social robots, including home robots, commercial robots, and educational robots and toys, but odds are, if you personally own a robot, it’s going to be either a vacuum or a drone.

As drones have become more and more pervasive over the last few years, HRI research on them has been expanding. The latest contribution to this area is a fascinating paper being presented at the HRI conference on “Emotion Encoding in Human-Drone Interaction.” In other words, how you can program a recognizable personality into a drone.

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SRI's Micro Robots Can Now Manufacture Their Own Tools

A few years ago, SRI International introduced their MicroFactory platform, which uses hundreds of tiny robots (each one smaller than a dime) that cooperate to build macro-scale structures, like trusses, which can even contain integrated electronics. Such complex manufacturing requires cooperation between many different micro robots, each one outfitted to perform a specific task. Building a bunch of little custom bots is, we have to assume, a little bit tedious, so SRI has developed a tool shop for their MicroFactory that can make custom end-effectors for micro robots on-demand.

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Video Friday: Robot Scorpion, Jibo A Capella, and Anti-Drone Bazooka

Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your stigmergic Automaton bloggers. We’re also posting a weekly calendar of upcoming robotics events for the next few months; here’s what we have so far (send us your events!):

HRI 2016 – March 7-10, 2016 – Christchurch, New Zealand
RobArch 2016 – March 14-19, 2016 – Sydney, Australia
RoboCup European Open – March 30-4, 2016 – Eindhoven, Netherlands
WeRobot 2016 – April 1-2, 2016 – Miami, Fla., USA
National Robotics Week – April 2-10, 2016 – United States
AISB HRI Symposium – April 5-6, 2016 – Sheffield, United Kingdom
Robotics in Education 2016 – April 14-15, 2016 – Vienna, Austria
NASA Swarmathon – April 18-22, 2016 – NASA KSC, Fla., USA
LEO Robotics Congress – April 21, 2016 – Eindhoven, Netherlands
International Collaborative Robots Workshop – May 3-4, 2016 – Boston, Mass., USA
ICARSC 2016 – May 4-6, 2016 – Bragança, Portugal
Robotica 2016 – May 4-8, 2016 – Bragança, Portugal
ARMS 2016 – May 9-13, 2016 – Singapore
ICRA 2016 – May 16-21, 2016 – Stockholm, Sweden
NASA Robotic Mining Competition – May 18-20, 2016 – NASA KSC, Fla, USA
Skolkovo Robotics Conference – May 20, 2016 – Skolkovo, Russia
Innorobo 2016 – May 24-26, 2016 – Paris, France
RoboCity16 – May 26-27, 2016 – Madrid, Spain


Let us know if you have suggestions for next week, and enjoy today’s videos.


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Kids Love MIT's Latest Squishable Social Robot (Mostly)

MIT’s Personal Robotics Group has been one of the driving forces behind social robotics since… well, since they pretty much invented social robotics. Led by Professor Cynthia Breazeal, who is also founder of social robot startup Jibo, the MIT group has built an amazing collection of smart, cute, and squishy creatures, and now they have a new one. The latest, smartest, cutest, and squishiest social robot that MIT has been testing out is named Tega, and it’s already gotten to work, adorably teaching Spanish to preschoolers.

We spoke with Jackie Kory Westlund, a Ph.D. student in the MIT Media Lab who’s been doing research with Tega, about why it’s such a useful social assistive robotics platform and how to keep preschoolers from utterly destroying it with hugs.

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Two of Google's Most Famous Dogs Really Don't Get Along

You may recognize one of the dogs in this picture: we’re pretty sure it’s Andy Rubin’s dog, Alex Cosmo [we’ve just been notified that the dog’s name is in fact Cosmo, and Cosmo not only “contributes to most big decisions at Playground” but also serves as its head of security]. Andy Rubin is the co-founder of Android, and for about a year, he managed the robotics program at Google (now known as Alphabet). More recently, he’s been running a hardware incubator called Playground, which has enough clout to summon up another robotic dog with Google ties: Boston Dynamics’ Spot.

Cosmo and Spot do not get along.

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Video Friday: Support Group for Bots, Russian Humanoid, and ANYmal Quadruped

Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your biped Automaton bloggers. We’re also posting a weekly calendar of upcoming robotics events for the next few months; here’s what we have so far (send us your events!):

The Future of Rescue Simulation Workshop – February 29-4, 2016 – Leiden, Netherlands
ROS-Industrial Consortium Americas – March 3-4, 2016 – San Antonio, Texas
HRI 2016 – March 7-10, 2016 – Christchurch, New Zealand
RobArch 2016 – March 14-19, 2016 – Sydney, Australia
RoboCup European Open – March 30-4, 2016 – Eindhoven, Netherlands
WeRobot 2016 – April 1-2, 2016 – Miami, Fla., USA
National Robotics Week – April 2-10, 2016 – United States
AISB HRI Symposium – April 5-6, 2016 – Sheffield, United Kingdom
Robotics in Education 2016 – April 14-15, 2016 – Vienna, Austria
LEO Robotics Congress – April 21, 2016 – Eindhoven, Netherlands
International Collaborative Robots Workshop – May 3-4, 2016 – Boston, Mass., USA
ICARSC 2016 – May 4-6, 2016 – Bragança, Portugal
Robotica 2016 – May 4-8, 2016 – Bragança, Portugal
ARMS 2016 – May 9-13, 2016 – Singapore
ICRA 2016 – May 16-21, 2016 – Stockholm, Sweden
Skolkovo Robotics Conference – May 20, 2016 – Skolkovo, Russia
Innorobo 2016 – May 24-26, 2016 – Paris, France


Let us know if you have suggestions for next week, and enjoy today’s videos.


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Boston Dynamics’ Marc Raibert on Next-Gen ATLAS: “A Huge Amount of Work”

Boston Dynamics unveiled yesterday a massively upgraded version of its ATLAS humanoid that is smaller, lighter, and more agile. In a video, the new robot is seen walking untethered in snow-covered woods, lifting and placing boxes on shelves, and even face-planting and immediately getting up unscathed after being pushed by an engineer. As one observer commented, “We expected [ATLAS] to turn around and blast that guy with a laser beam.”

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The Next Generation of Boston Dynamics' ATLAS Robot Is Quiet, Robust, and Tether Free

Boston Dynamics has just posted an incredible video showcasing a massively upgraded version of the ATLAS robot that they initially developed for the DARPA Robotics Challenge. While BD calls this the “next generation” of ATLAS, it looks like such an enormous technological leap forward that it’s more like a completely different species.

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Thirty Meter Telescope Project Is Stalled, but the Robot Needed to Build It Is Ready

The prosaically named Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) project, a planned observatory to be built on Mauna Kea, the Big Island, in Hawaii, is huge in every way: a reported US $1.4 billion dollar budget, a giant mirror composed of 492 smaller mirror segments, and a goal of investigating not just the stars in our Milky Way but galaxies forming at the very edge of the observable universe.

Though this project is backed by the governments of China, Japan, Canada, and India, as well as the United States, it may never be built. For its location is considered sacred by some Hawaiians, whose protests have been heard all the way to the State Supreme Court of Hawaii, which in December 2015 invalidated TMT’s previously granted building permit.

With the project suspended for over a year, involved scientist and construction companies can only keep their fingers crossed that the contested case will go their way. In the meantime, Mitsubishi Electric, which has developed the main structure of TMT, announced this week the completion of a prototype robot for a segmented-handling system (SHS) to install and replace the mirror segments. No easy task, given each hexagonal segment weighs about 250 kilograms and measures 1.44 meters across corners.

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IEEE Spectrum's award-winning robotics blog, featuring news, articles, and videos on robots, humanoids, drones, automation, artificial intelligence, and more.
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