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Military Tests Robo-Parachute Delivery Needing No GPS

Someday, U.S. soldiers fighting in the streets of a sprawling megacity will need an airdrop of ammunition, food, or water that can’t be safely delivered by ground convoy or helicopter. But the supplies parachuting from the skies won’t have to rely on GPS signals that suffer from inaccuracy in cluttered city environments or can be disrupted by enemies. The U.S. military has been testing new supply airdrops that can automatically aim for a precise landing based on images of the target area. 

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Dutch Police Training Eagles to Take Down Drones

No matter how many regulations are put in place, drones are cheap enough now that frequent misuse is becoming the norm. There’s no good way of dealing with a dangerous drone: you can jam its radios to force it to autoland, or maybe try using an even bigger drone to capture it inside a giant net. In either of these cases, however, you run the risk of having the drone go completely out of control, which is even more dangerous.

Or, you can be like the Dutch National Police, and train eagles to take down drones for you.

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Video Friday: Marvin Minsky, Submersible Drone, and SLAM on a SnakeBot

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

ASU Rehabilitation Robotics Workshop – February 8-9, 2016 – Tempe, Arizona, USA
The Future of Rescue Simulation Workshop – February 29-4, 2016 – Leiden, Netherlands
HRI 2016 – March 7-10, 2016 – Christchurch, New Zealand
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


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

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This Robot Changes How It Looks at You to Match Your Personality

I think the idea of designing robots that look like humans to better interact with humans is a solid “meh.” The concept is good, but the execution is usually horrible, and the more your robot tries to look like a human, the more horrible it gets. Having said that, I think that the idea of using robots with specific human features, like eyes, can be a substantial asset for human-robot interaction, if you know what you’re doing. 

Sean Andrist, a PhD student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (who knows what he’s doing), has been researching social gaze with robots. He’s developed algorithms that help robots look at people at the right times and in the right ways. It’s not just making the robots less creepy, but more helpful as well.

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Squishy Robot Fingers Gently Tickle Deep Sea Critters

The best part about scuba diving is being able to see all kinds of amazing animals, plants, animals that looks like plants, and plants that look like animals. The worst part about scuba diving is not being able to squidge any of these things. I mean, don’t you just want to give this thing a great big hug? Or this thing? Or especially this thing?

While it’s unlikely that me personally hugging any of these adorable creatures will ever be a good idea (however much I was seriously considering it while taking those pics), it is occasionally important for sea creatures to be aggressively groped in the name of science. Researchers at Harvard have endowed undersea robots with some squishy robotic fingers that allow them to non-destructively collect underwater specimens from under da sea. What more is you looking for?

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Hawaiian Robot Practices Landing Pad Construction for Space Exploration

In retrospect, it seems crazy that we sent people to the moon with nothing there waiting for them. If something had gone wrong, there was no Plan B. We’re probably not going to take a risk like that again, which is why we’re working so hard on robots that can go to the moon or Mars to get things all set up and running and warm and cozy for us in advance. 

Setting up bases and habitats and doing exploring and whatnot may be the exciting extraterrestrial work, but there’s other Very Important things that need to be done. One of the most important things is a high quality landing pad, and the Pacific International Space Center for Exploration (PISCES) has gotten a teleoperated robot to build one. On Earth. Gotta start somewhere, right?

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Video Friday: Segway Robot Demo, Pepper the Retail Worker, and Megakopter World Record

Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your soon-to-be snow-buried Automaton bloggers. We’ll be 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!):

ASU Rehabilitation Robotics Workshop – February 8-9, 2016 – Tempe, Arizona, USA
The Future of Rescue Simulation Workshop – February 29-4, 2016 – Leiden, Netherlands
HRI 2016 – March 7-10, 2016 – Christchurch, New Zealand
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


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


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Helicopter Robot Airdrops Recon Ground Robot, No Humans Necessary

In essence, performing reconnaissance is all about trying to find something that you really don’t want to find. Maybe you’re looking for enemy forces, or maybe you’re trying to locate sources of chemical or biological or radiological contamination. In any case, having a team of humans finding what they’re looking for, while technically a success, is not really something to look forward to. “Oh hey, looks like we found that insanely dangerous thing we’ve been searching for, hooray!”

You know what comes next: let’s get the robots to do this sort of thing instead, right? Last October, Carnegie Mellon University, in partnership with aircraft manufacturer Sikorsky, gave the U.S. Army a demonstration of a fully autonomous Black Hawk helicopter teaming up with a fully autonomous ground vehicle to show how a team like this can search out threats without humans having to even get up off the couch.

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Spectacular Video Shows Flyability's Gimball Drone Exploring Ice Caves

A glacier crevasse has to be one of the worst places you could ever decide to fly a drone. It’s deep, dark, narrow, windy, and full of all kinds of nasty pointy bits, any one of which could collapse onto you at any time. This is also why you’d never want to enter one yourself, and why there aren’t any robots that are really able to go down into them to explore: it’s just horribly dangerous. From time to time, though, humans fall into crevasses, and then other humans have to (first) find them and then (hopefully) rescue them.

Last year, Lausanne, Switzerland-based startup Flyability partnered with the mountain rescue team at Zermatt Glacier in the Swiss Alps to offer them the services of Gimball, which is quite possibly the only robot that doesn’t care even a little bit whether you drop it into the bowels of a glacier. The drone took its HD camera and powerful lighting system deep into the ice, and came back out alive with video to prove it.

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Toshiba Prepares Amphibious Robot for Fukushima Reactor Pool

There’s still a huge amount of radioactive waste cleanup to do at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan. Some of that cleanup can be done by careful humans. And there’s some that’s too dangerous for humans, but not quite dangerous enough to dissuade robots. Clearing the fuel rods out of the pool in reactor 3 is one of those tasks, and Toshiba has built a robot to tackle it.

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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

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