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DURUS humanoid robot from Georgia Tech

DURUS Brings Human-Like Gait (and Fancy Shoes) to Hyper-Efficient Robots

In the middle of the DRC Finals last year, SRI’s DURUS robot slowly and steadily spent over two and a half hours walking 2 kilometers on a single battery charge. This was a Big Deal: DARPA had recognized from the beginning that the original version of ATLAS was horrendously impractical (at least in terms of locomotion), so they funded two different teams, one from SRI and one from Sandia, to design a humanoid robot that could walk 20x more efficiently. SRI’s DURUS came very, very close to this goal, achieving a cost of transport of just 1.5 through an innovative combination of hardware, software, and especially gait control.

The guy whose job it is to play with this robot is Professor Aaron Ames, who spent much of the last year moving his Advanced Mechanical Bipedal Experimental Robotics Lab from Texas A&M to Georgia Tech, which is why we haven’t heard anything exciting about DURUS since the DRC. 
It sounds like they just got everything up and running a few months ago, and they’re now ready to share an impressive new behavior: DURUS can now walk just like a human, while wearing normal (and stylish) human shoes.

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Anki Cozmo Robot SDK

Anki to Release Impressive Feature-Packed SDK for Cozmo Robot

When we first saw all of Anki’s PR for its forthcoming Cozmo robot, we were impressed—mostly. Anki seemed to be determined to overinflate an otherwise interesting and capable little piece of hardware into an expectation-laden “part of the family.” We’re not interested in expectations: We want to know what this robot can do, and how it’ll continue to hold our attention after the first 5 minutes.

Today, Anki is announcing what we have to look forward to in the SDK that’ll come with Cozmo. At first, this didn’t seem like that big of a deal—lots of companies release SDKs with their robots in the (usually futile) hope that developers will latch onto it and imbue their robots with all kinds of new and exciting features continually and for free. However, after speaking with Anki co-founder and president Hanns Tappeiner, we’re a bit more optimistic that Cozmo’s SDK might actually motivate you (and other people) to do some really cool stuff with this robot.

Our interview with Hanns Tappeiner, and some sample code, coming right up.

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Northrop Grumman Remotec Andros F6B robot

Should the Police Have Robot Suicide-Bombers?

This is a guest post. The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not represent positions of IEEE Spectrum or the IEEE.

Last week, the Dallas police killed a suspected gunman with a bomb-delivering robot. It was a desperate measure for desperate times: five law enforcement officers were killed and several more wounded before the shooter was finally cornered.

Of course, the shooter needed to be stopped; preventing further murder and mayhem is always a priority. But the method, a robot bomb, was so unorthodox that it raises many ethical and policy questions, if not also legal ones. Let’s look at some.

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Teen size humanoid robot kicks ball at RoboCup

Video Friday: RoboCup Finals, Crowdsourced Robotics, and Growing Drones in Vats

Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your Chemputer™-savvy 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!):

IEEE AIM 2016 – July 12-15, 2016 – Banff, Canada
DLMC 2016 – July 13-15, 2016 – Zurich, Switzerland
ROS Industrial Workshop – July 14-15, 2016 – Singapore
MARSS 2016 – July 18-22, 2016 – Paris, France
IEEE WCCI 2016 – July 25-29, 2016 – Vancouver, Canada
RO-MAN 2016 – August 26-31, 2016 – New York, N.Y., USA
ECAI 2016 – August 29-2, 2016 – The Hague, Holland
NASA SRRC Level 2 – September 2-5, 2016 – Worcester, Mass., USA


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


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A Cyborg Stingray Made of Rat Muscles and Gold

Robots have advanced an enormous amount over the past few years, in both hardware and software, and the next few years promise even more advancements. It’s exciting, but we’re nowhere close to the efficiency and capability of animals, and it’s going to be a while before humans are able to create anything to match their level of elegance, especially when it comes to powered motion.

One way to avoid playing catch-up with animals all of the time is to simply steal everything you can from them as directly as possible. Want vision like insects? Steal the structure of their eyeballs with a bioinspired camera. Or heck, why stop with bioinspiration when you can instead hijack animals directly by wiring up a cybernetic beetle? These approaches are useful in certain situations, but ideally, you’d want to be able to leverage all of actual animal magic that you get with cybernetics and work it into the kind of bioinspired robots that you can design to do exactly what you want. 

A team of researchers, led by Sung-Jin Park and Professor Kevin Kit Parker at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard, have found a way to meld bioinspiration with robotics and cybernetics with the creation of a fully controllable robotic ray that uses light-activated rat muscle cells to swim. Their research has just been published in Science, and it’s impressive. And also adorable.

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Amazon Picking Challenge winner Team Delft robot arm

Team Delft Wins Amazon Picking Challenge

With warehouses full of robots that can move shelves from place to place, the only reason that Amazon needs humans anymore is to pick things off of those shelves and put them into boxes, and pick other things out of boxes and put them onto those shelves. Amazon wants robots to be doing these tasks too, but it’s a hard problem—hard enough that the enormous bajillion dollar company is asking other roboticists to solve it for them.

The first Amazon Picking Challenge was held at ICRA last year in Seattle, Amazon’s home town. Amazon followed it up this year with another, tougher challenge at RoboCup 2016, which just wrapped up. And the winner is...Team Delft from the Netherlands! Relative to last year’s challenge, the performances were pretty impressive, and there’s already some video up on YouTube that shows how things went down.

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Nao humanoid robot with eyebrows

Video Friday: Pneumatic RoboDog, Drone Crash, and Nao With Eyebrows

Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your unibrowed 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!):

IEEE AIM 2016 – July 12-15, 2016 – Banff, Canada
DLMC 2016 – July 13-15, 2016 – Zurich, Switzerland
ROS Industrial Workshop – July 14-15, 2016 – Singapore
MARSS 2016 – July 18-22, 2016 – Paris, France
IEEE WCCI 2016 – July 25-29, 2016 – Vancouver, Canada
RO-MAN 2016 – August 26-31, 2016 – New York, N.Y., USA
ECAI 2016 – August 29-2, 2016 – The Hague, Holland


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


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Pleurobot salamander robot from EPFL

How EPFL Made Pleurobot the Most Salamanderish Robot Ever

EPFL’s Pleurobot is, obviously, our favorite robot salamander. This is likely because it looks so much like a real salamander, but more importantly, it moves just like a real salamander. Or, to be more specific, EPFL has spent years trying to make sure that the way Pleurobot moves is as close to the way that a real salamander moves as possible.

In a new paper just published in the Royal Society journal Interface, EPFL researchers describe how they’ve combined “high-speed cineradiography, optimization, dynamic scaling, three-dimensional printing, high-end servomotors, and a tailored dry-suit” to refine their robot to accurately capture the degrees of freedom, range of motion, and gait behaviors of the real animal.

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Five Elements Robotics robotic shopping cart

Walmart and Five Elements Robotics Working on Robotic Shopping Cart

It’s been a few years since we first met Five Elements Robotics at RoboBusiness, where they introduced Budgee, a sort of robotic stuff-carrier that will follow you around with up to 22 kilograms of your junk by homing in on a small ultrasonic emitter. Last week at the Bloomberg Technology Conference, Five Elements CEO Wendy Roberts announced that Walmart is evaluating a prototype of a new Five Elements robotic shopping cart called Dash. Dash is much more than an upgraded version of Budgee; it’s a completely new platform, specifically designed for autonomous shopping assistance.

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Anki's Cozmo: the Intelligent Robotic Toy You've Always Wanted, Maybe

Today, Anki, which made its splashy debut a few years back with their little autonomous racing cars, has announced a new robot toy called Cozmo. Cozmo is (according to Anki) “one of the most sophisticated robots available today,” which could be correct depending on your definitions of “one of the most sophisticated,” and “available today.” What does Cozmo do? “He is charming, a bit mischievous, and unpredictable. He recognizes and remembers you. He interacts with you, plays games, and gets to know you over time.”

Sounds interesting, let’s take a look.

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