Automaton iconAutomaton

ARMAR-III humanoid robot preparing dinner

Video Friday: A Humanoid in the Kitchen, Transparent Gel Robots, and NFL's Ball-Dropping Drone

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

Robotics Alley – February 28-1, 2017 – Minneapolis, Minn., USA
HRI 2017 – March 6-9, 2017 – Vienna, Austria
IEEE ARSO – March 8-10, 2017 – Austin, Texas, USA
IEEE SSRR – March 10-13, 2017 – Shanghai, China
NYC Drone Film Festival – March 17-19, 2017 – NYC, NY, USA
European Robotics Forum – March 22-24, 2017 – Edinburgh, Scotland
Automate – April 3-3, 2017 – Chicago, Ill., USA
U.S. National Robotics Week – April 8-16, 2017 – USA
NASA Swarmathon – April 18-20, 2017 – NASA KSC, Florida, USA
RoboBusiness Europe – April 20-21, 2017 – Delft, Netherlands
ICARSC – April 26-30, 2017 – Coimbra, Portugal

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

Read More
Piaggio's Gita Cargo Robot

Piaggio's Cargo Robot Uses Visual SLAM to Follow You Anywhere

Making a fully autonomous delivery robot (whether it flies or not) is a very hard problem. Your robot has to be prepared to operate all alone in unstructured environments, and it has to do so both reliably and efficiently. A new robot introduced this week by Piaggio Fast Forward (herein abbreviated “PFF”), a division of Italian vehicle manufacturer Piaggio, is getting in on autonomous stuff-moving, but they’re taking a slightly different approach.

Rather than try to develop a fully autonomous delivery robot from scratch, PFF is instead starting with something simpler: a pleasingly roundish robot called Gita (“gee-tah”) that will follow you around, carrying 19 kilograms of tools, groceries, or whatever you want.

Read More
Otherlab's APSARA: Industrial Paper Airplanes for Autonomous Aerial Delivery

Swarms of Disposable Drones Will Make Critical Deliveries and Then Vanish

Delivery drones still face an uncertain future, but there’s at least one scenario where they make a lot of sense: Flying robots can be ideal for bringing small, high value, time-sensitive goods to people in low-infrastructure areas. As specific a situation as that sounds like, it’s an enormous opportunity, and has the potential to make a huge difference in rural areas and disaster relief missions with deliveries of food and medical supplies, for example.

One challenge with that, however, is that while drones are cheap to operate, the up-front investment is significant, especially if you need to make a lot of deliveries quickly, like right after an earthquake. With this sort of thing in mind, DARPA has funded several companies under its ICARUS (Inbound, Controlled, Air-Releasable, Unrecoverable Systems) program to create cheap, disposable drones that are designed to deliver a thing to a place and then be forgotten about. One of the companies receiving DARPA funding is San Francisco research firm Otherlab, which does weird robotics-y stuff with creative materials, among other things, and they’ve come up with a design for a drone they’re calling APSARA: Aerial Platform Supporting Autonomous Resupply/ Actions.

Read More
Bat Robot Offers Safety and Maneuverability in Bioinspired Design

Bat Robot Offers Safety and Maneuverability in Bioinspired Design

With a few exceptions, quadrotors are the go-to aerial robot when you need something small, fast, and maneuverable. This is because quadrotors are relatively cheap and easy to fly, and not because they’re the best aerial platform. In fact, you may have noticed that there aren’t a lot of rotary fliers in the animal kingdom—this is because (among other reasons) flapping wings offer high efficiency and incredible maneuverability as long as you’re able to manufacture and control them.

Those last two things are what make wings tricky for robots, which is why we don’t see nearly as many useful robot birds as we do useful quadrotors. Alireza Ramezani, Soon-Jo Chung, and Seth Hutchinson from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Caltech have decided that making robot birds is just not tricky enough, so they’re working on something even better and even more complex: a robotic bat.

Read More
Poker pro Jason Les with computer mouse in hand plays against the Libratus AI

AI Decisively Defeats Human Poker Players

Humanity has finally folded under the relentless pressure of an artificial intelligence named Libratus in a historic poker tournament loss. As poker pro Jason Les played his last hand and leaned back from the computer screen, he ventured a half-hearted joke about the anticlimactic ending and the lack of sparklers. Then he paused in a moment of reflection.

“120,000 hands of that,” Les said. “Jesus.”

Libratus lived up to its “balanced but forceful” Latin name by becoming the first AI to beat professional poker players at heads-up, no-limit Texas Hold'em.  The tournament was held at the Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh from 11–30 January. Developed by Carnegie Mellon University, the AI won the “Brains vs. Artificial Intelligence” tournament against four poker pros by US $1,766,250 in chips over 120,000 hands (games). Researchers can now say that the victory margin was large enough to count as a statistically significant win, meaning that they could be at least 99.98 percent sure that the AI victory was not due to chance.

Read More
WALK-MAN humanoid robot steps over an obstacle during a demonstration.

Video Friday: Muscle for Tough Robots, Cobots on Wheels, and WALK-MAN Goes for a Walk

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

RoboBusiness Europe – April 20-21, 2017 – Delft, Netherlands
NASA SRC Virtual Competition – June 12-16, 2017 – Online

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


Read More
A crappy (and edible) robot from Hebocon Valencia.

Hebocon: The Best Worst Robot Competition

Most of the robot competitions we cover are serious business. Roboticists spend months (or years) and thousands (or millions) of dollars building and programming their robots to navigate through simulated disaster areas, solve complicated tasks that most people don’t really understand, or just beat the stuffing out of each other.

Building the best robot you can is difficult and stressful. You know what isn’t difficult or stressful? Building the worst robot you can, and then seeing if it can manage to be even more terrible than a bunch of other robots trying to do the same thing. This is Hebocon, and we love it.

Read More
DragonflEye Cyborg Drone

DragonflEye Project Wants to Turn Insects Into Cyborg Drones

As hard as we’re trying, it’s going to be a very long time before we’re able to build a robotic insect that’s anywhere near as capable or versatile as a real one. So for now, we rely on a cybernetics approach to get real insects to do our bidding instead. Over the past several years researchers have managed to steer large insects using electrical implants, a sort of brute-force method with limited real-world usefulness.

Now engineers at the R&D company Draper, based in Cambridge, Mass., are hoping to overcome those limitations by creating a cybernetic dragonfly that combines “miniaturized navigation, synthetic biology, and neurotechnology.” To steer the dragonflies, the Draper engineers are developing a way of genetically modifying the nervous system of the insects so they can respond to pulses of light. Once they get it to work, this approach, known as optogenetic stimulation, could enable dragonflies to carry payloads or conduct surveillance, or even help honey bees become better pollinators.

Read More
Bots_Alive autonomous interactive critter.

Bots_Alive Brings Sophisticated Brains to Cheap Robots

How do you make a robot toy that’s both interesting and affordable? It’s a hard problem: Making an interesting robot means giving it intelligence and creative autonomy, and giving a robot intelligence and creative autonomy is generally not compatible with it also being cheap. At CES a few weeks ago, we were introduced to Bots_Alive, a small company of roboticists who have managed to develop a robotic critter with a carefully thought-out animal-like personality. And by hacking an existing robot toy and using your phone as a brain, they’re ready to sell it to you for 35 bucks.

Read More
Boston Dynamics' SpotMini robots

Video Friday: Boston Dynamics Robots in VR, NASA Rovers, and Valkyrie Package Delivery

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

RoboBusiness Europe – April 20-21, 2017 – Delft, Netherlands
NASA SRC Virtual Competition – June 12-16, 2017 – Online

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


Read More
Advertisement

Automaton

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

Editor
Erico Guizzo
New York City
Senior Writer
Evan Ackerman
Washington, D.C.
 

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up for the Automaton newsletter and get biweekly updates about robotics, automation, and AI, all delivered directly to your inbox.

Load More