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Robots Get Flexible and Torqued Up With Origami Wheels

Origami, the art of folding pieces of paper to create shapes, is an appealing concept for robotics because you can transform two dimensional materials into three dimensional structures that are inherently flexible, or, as a roboticist would say, "deformable." What's more, structures that fold and unfold enable all kinds of interesting functionality that would otherwise only be possible with systems that are much more complex.

The approach can be particularly useful in designing wheels for robots, and earlier this month at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) two research groups presented origami-inspired wheel systems that allow mobile robots to be nimbler and stronger. 

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Video Friday: World Cup Exoskeleton, Robot Cockroaches, and Chocolate Drone

We're back from ICRA in Hong Kong, just in time to return you to your regularly scheduled Video Fridays. Just because ICRA is done, though, doesn't mean that we're taking a break: in just a few weeks, this year's Robotics: Science and Systems Conference (RSS) will be held at UC Berkeley, and IROS 2014 is only a few months away, taking place in Chicago in September. As usual, there will be all sorts of other robot stuff going on in the near future, some of which we know about but is TOP SECRET, and some of which will be a surprise to everybody. And those surprises are usually the best. No surprises today, though: we're back to normal, and it's time for robot videos.

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Finally: Automatic Sliding Doors Get Star Trek Intelligence

The automatic sliding doors that we're familiar with from Star Trek are way smarter than the automatic sliding doors that we're familiar with from real life. In Star Trek, doors seem to know when characters want to go through them, and they never open by accident when someone is just walking by. Also, they manage to never be in the way when a character is running towards them at full speed (you try this at the mall and see what happens). Is it really too much to expect for automatic doors to have this sort of intelligence? It's not like we're asking for a Transporter. Now robotics researchers have (finally) made it happen.

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Big and Little Legged Robots Team Up to Conquer Terrain

Humans, robots, and anything else with legs can have issues with navigating terrain that's rough, sticky, or slippery. Navigating dangerous terrain like this isn't necessarily a problem, as long as there's a little bit of advanced warning. Imagine the difference between walking out onto an icy sidewalk that you are expecting, as opposed to walking out onto an icy sidewalk that you're not expecting.

The tricky thing is that "expecting" bit: short of actually stepping on a surface, how do you know what to expect? A robot can try relying on sensors to identify and avoid slippery terrain, but researchers from UC Berkeley and ETH Zurich came up with another effective strategy, which they presented last week at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA).

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Humanoid Robot KOBIAN Learning to Be a Comedian

We've seen lots and lots of robots making people laugh. Some robots are just doing funny things like dancing. Others are just doing silly things like falling. But as far as successful robot comedians, well… I could count the number of those on my 10 hands.

Just a little binary joke to get you warmed up there, folks. Thank you, I'll be here, uh, until I'm not.

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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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Automaton

IEEE Spectrum's award-winning robotics blog, featuring news, articles, and videos on robots, humanoids, automation, artificial intelligence, and more.
Contact us:  e.guizzo@ieee.org

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Erico Guizzo
New York, N.Y.
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Berkeley, Calif.
 
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Canada
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Tokyo, Japan
 

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