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This Quadrotor Uses Google's Project Tango to Fly Autonomously

Early this year, Google unveiled its Project Tango smartphone, a mobile device equipped with a depth sensor, a motion tracking camera, and two vision processors that let the phone track its position in space and create 3D maps in real time. The device is particularly useful for robots, which have to navigate and locate themselves in the world. Indeed, a video showed how Google and its partners were putting the smartphone on different kinds of robots, including mobile platforms and manipulator arms.

Now researchers at the University of Pennsylvania led by Professor Vijay Kumar are taking things one step further. After getting a Tango device from Google, they put it on one of their quadrotors and let it loose inside their lab.

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Japanese Researchers Building Robots That Sweat and Have Goosebumps

In a recent TED talk, Swiss magician Marco Tempest, who's performed tricks using robots, said that "besides the faces and bodies we give our robots, we cannot read their intentions, and that makes us nervous. When someone hands an object to you, you can read intention in their eyes, their face, their body language. That's not true of the robot."

Now Japanese researchers want to change that. They say that a big problem with today's robots is that we don’t know what’s going on inside their heads. Robots that have facial expressions and are capable of gesticulating can help us feel more at ease interacting with them, but the researchers want to go one step further: They want to build robots with some of the same involuntary physiological reactions that we humans have, such as sweating when we feel anxious or getting goosebumps when we're scared.

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Hobbyist Group Flies Drone Over World's Tallest Building

Team BlackSheep is back with another of its dubiously legal but undoubtedly epic aerial drone videos. This time they have their camera-enabled quadrotor shooting some spectacular footage in the skies of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

The video includes a high altitude view of the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world at 829.8 meters (2,722 feet). And by "high altitude view" we mean, holy sheep, the drone flies above the antenna atop the building. To get an idea of how tall this thing is, consider that you have to stack two Empire State Buildings to get one Burj Khalifa!

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Video Friday: Fast Running Robot, Nao Debates an Ape, and Hall of Fame

Happy belated Video Friday! We're running late today, and this is totally, completely Evan's fault. Evan, if you're reading this, dude, who said you could go on vacation and take time off from the blog? Wait a minute. Er, now I remember, you told me about your vacation like a month ago, and I agreed to keep things going until you return. Alright. Just come back soon. We're scrambling here, man. Please.

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Panasonic Revives Hospital Delivery Robot

Panasonic has been working on its Hospi hospital delivery robot since back in 2004. When it was first introduced a decade ago, it was too expensive and not capable enough to effectively compete with existing hospital infrastructure, and Panasonic managed to sell a total of two (yes, two) robots.

But it's now 2014, robots are way better, and healthcare is way more expensive than it used to be. After a reintroduction at IREX in 2013, the newest version of the Hospi robots have been successful enough in hospital trials that Panasonic is actually starting to sell them again.

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Fast Robot Arm Catches Flying Objects

Robots that deal with fast-moving objects tend to handle them in one of two ways: way one is to assume that the object is going to keep doing whatever it's been doing, allowing you to predict what's going to happen with it without having to work too hard. Way two is to instead constantly watch what the object is doing, and then continually update what's going to happen to it by working very hard. Way one is unreliable because the Universe is unreliable and assumptions are dangerous, and way two is very computationally intensive, which often makes it too slow to feed useful instructions through a controller to a robot.

At the Learning Algorithms and Systems Laboratory at EPFL, they're leveraging fast vision, fast computers, fast controllers, fast motors, programming by demonstration, and object modeling to be able to snatch unpredictably unbalanced flying objects straight out of the air.

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Parrot's Bebop Drone Has Better Video, Longer Range, and Oculus Rift Support

Last September, Parrot unveiled its latest AR Drone upgrade, the Power Edition, with longer flying time and new colors, and the company also revealed it was hard at work testing a new GPS autopilot system. Then early this year at CES, Parrot released a brand new quadrotor called the MiniDrone

That's all really cool and we figured that, okay, it's going to be a while (like, a year) before we see any sort of new flying robot from Parrot. We apparently underestimated Parrot by a lot, because last week, they gave us a look at a completely new drone that includes a bunch of unique features that are totally worth getting excited about.

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Video Friday: 3D-Printing Drones, Telepresence Robots at Home, and Baxter Does Magic

This week's Video Friday is going to be a little bit light, probably because a lot of the people who normally post cool stuff (students and research labs) are feverishly working on their PowerPoint presentations ahead of ICRA 2014, which kicks off in just a few Fridays from now.

This lull usually happens before a major conference, although we always get caught up (and then some) with videos as soon as the conference opens. Our preliminary schedule has just over 150 talks on it, and that's not including workshops, plenary talks, lunch talks, and a special "Pecha Kucha Night of Robotics" that looks like a lot of fun. So for a taste of what's to come, today's first video is a preview of an ICRA talk.

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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:  e.guizzo@ieee.org

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Erico Guizzo
New York, N.Y.
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Evan Ackerman
Berkeley, Calif.
 
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Jason Falconer
Canada
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Tokyo, Japan
 

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