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U.S. Army Considers Replacing Thousands of Soldiers With Robots

Last week at the Army Aviation Symposium, in Arlington, Va., a U.S. Army officer announced that the Army is looking to slim down its personnel numbers and adopt more robots over the coming years. The biggest surprise, though, is the scale of the downsizing the Army might aim for.

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Video Friday: Game of Drones, Jamming Grippers, and RoboCop Is Back

We were pleasantly surprised by the number of robotics announcements at CES this year. In the past it's been a bit of a snoozefest, since robotics companies didn't want to tussle with all of the other major electronics manufacturers for coverage. However, in what is perhaps a small sign that robotics is becoming more mainstream, CES featured new products from the likes of iRobot, Parrot, Orbotix, and Suitable Tech.

But just because CES happened last week didn't mean that the rest of the robotics world came to a standstill, although we would definitely have appreciated that. So once again, we're here to get you caught up with Video Friday.

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Muscle Sensors Allow Robots to Cooperate Better With Humans

Robots, even very well programmed robots, really don't care about you. And by "you," I mean humans. And even if a robot did care about you, most of them don't have a clue about what you're doing or what you want. We've seen all kinds of examples of robots that have been programmed to collaborate with humans, but few so directly as this Georgia Tech robot, thanks to a wearable sensor that lets it "spy" on its human partner.

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Clearpath Robotics to Provide PR2 Support Through 2016

Ever since, um, stuff happened at Willow Garage about a year ago, there's been some question as to the fate of the 40 or so PR2s out there and those still in stock (yes, they're still for sale). It's not difficult to imagine that existing PR2 owners and prospective buyers want to be assured that support is available and will remain available for a reasonable period of time. If you're one of those people, good news: Canadian company Clearpath Robotics has been selected to provide PR2 support through 2016.

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New Beam+ Telepresence System Is Designed for Home Users, Launches for $995

At CES last week, we ventured deep inside Suitable Technologies booth to a secret room to meet their latest telepresence robot platform. It's called the Beam+, and while it does just about everything that the original Beam can do, this new Beam isn't designed for offices or conference settings—it was created to be used at home. An advanced robotic system for people's homes that is not a vacuum cleaner is pretty amazing news, but here's another reason to be excited: the first thousand Beam+ units are up for pre-order for the staggeringly low price of just US $995. 

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Parrot Unveils Jumping Robot and Wheeled Quadcopter [New Videos and Details]

A few years back, the French company Parrot decided that it would be sort of cool to start building robots. It's not like they were a robotics company: they mostly made Bluetooth stuff. And speakers. And some kind of fantastic headphones. But out of nowhere, Parrot came up with the AR.Drone, which they debuted at CES 2010. After four years (and two versions) it's still arguably the best, most affordable (and fun!) flying robot we've ever seen. And at CES this week, Parrot expanded its family of robots, with a miniaturized version of the AR.Drone plus a wheeled sumo robot that jumps.

We've always liked how Parrot manages to take some of the latest research-inspired technology and stuff it into its consumer robots. The two new robots sport some capabilities that, until now, we've only spotted in research labs. 

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The Greatest Myth About the Robotics Industry

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.

Just over a year ago, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote a much-discussed piece on the discrepancy between corporate profits and labor compensation. The column sparked a huge debate, and on the Times website alone readers left more than 1,300 comments. The part that interested me, however, wasn't the discussion on capital versus labor. What caught my attention was a comment Krugman made about robotics. He referred to it as a capital-intensive technology. It may not sound like a big deal. The problem is, it isn't true.

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CES 2014: Sphero 2B Robot Is Fast, Funky, and Fun

We know and love Orbotix for their magical Sphero robotic balls, which can roll themselves around without any external moving parts. It seems like just a few months ago (barely five months) that we met the second generation of their round robot, so we were more than a little bit surprised that when at CES this week, Orbotix decided to introduce a completely new, and completely different, rolling robotic toy: the Sphero 2B.

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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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