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Video Friday: Justin Cleans Windows, Robot Recycling, and Sneaky Snakebots

One month from now, we'll be in Hong Kong, bringing you all the latest robotics research from ICRA 2014, the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation. I bring this up now because we're starting to put together our schedule, and it's going to be a spectacular conference, in that there are literally hundreds of presentations that we're excited to attend, and most of them are all happening at the exact same time. But that's okay, because our specialty is being in two (or five) places at the same time.

If you have any specific interests, definitely let us know and we'll do our best to bring you all of the stuff you want to see. And until then, we'll just have to make due with Video Friday.

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Thumbles: a Touchscreen Interface Based on Little Mobile Robots

Touchscreens are the physical interface of choice right now. This is fine, because touchscreens are versatile and portable, and we like them. Sometimes, however, we feel that they lack that satisfying tactile feedback we get from physical controls like buttons and knobs and joysticks.

Now an experimental interface called Thumbles wants to bring more tactile capability to the touchscreen. It features tiny little omnidirectional robots that live on top of a projected screen. By grabbing them and dragging them around as they try to drive around, you can experience a completely new type of physical interactivity.

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Avidbots Wants to Automate Commercial Cleaning With Robots

Vacuuming is one of the few markets where robots have proven that they can be consistently commercially successful. There's a good reason for this: vacuuming is a repetitive, time-intensive task that has to be performed over and over again in environments that are relatively constrained. Despite the success of several companies in the home robot vacuum space, we haven't seen many low cost platforms designed for commercial areas, but a startup called Avidbots is tackling this idea, and they've got operational prototypes.

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First FAA-Approved Drone Test Site Goes Live Next Week in North Dakota

Whether or not the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has the authority to approve or regulate or monitor or oversee or whatever they want to do about unmanned aerial systems (UAS), the fact is more and more people are flying these systems everywhere.

Technically, you're not supposed to fly drones out of visual range, more than 400 feet in the air, or closer than five miles to any sort of controlled airspace (including the Class B airspace that's in place over most urban areas), without getting an an experimental airworthiness certificate (which specifically precludes carrying cargo) and applying for a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA).

Most people, of course, do not pay any attention to any of this whatsoever, because flying drones is cheap, easy, and fun, and everybody is doing it, so why worry?

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Video Friday: Obama vs. ASIMO, 3D Printed Hands, and Drone Delivery Fail

This week, President Obama is in Japan. We assume he's got some business to take care of, doing whatever it is a president does (we have no idea what this would be), but we're gratified to see that he made some time for robots, which (as far as we're concerned) is the reason that one goes to Japan.

In the past, Obama has had generally positive experiences with robots, although HRP-4C creeped him out a little bit. We're with ya on that, Chief. This time, Obama met ASIMO, which showed off its soccer skills. Video of that, and plenty more, after the break. It's Video Friday!

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Gecko Adhesives Moving from Robot Feet to Your Walls

Few robots are as elegantly designed as Stickybot, Stanford's original robotic gecko. The bio-inspiration extends all the way down to the toes, which featured an early generation of gecko toe adhesive. Geckos stick to things using van der Waals' forces generated between the tiny fibers on their toes and whatever surface they're on: it's not sticky in the same sense that glue or tape is sticky; it's a molecular attraction that works on the smoothest of surfaces and can be used over and over. It sounds like something that might be useful apart from robots, and it looks like artificial gecko toes are about to go mainstream, with super strong, reusable Geckskin.

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KMel's Hexrotors Put on Autonomous Musical Spectacular

We love KMel Robotics because they're a fantastic example of how it really is possible to take robots straight out of a research environment and use them to do awesome stuff that also (we assume) is to some extent commercially viable. This is an incredibly hard jump to make for any company, but KMel has done it in style, and their latest performance piece has a large swarm of hexrotors playing (and controlling) a symphony of musical instruments.

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Quadruped Robot Pneupard Takes Its First Steps

Last year, Boston Dynamics' Wildcat quadruped robot managed to "escape" its lab in spectacular style, galloping in a parking lot at up to 25 km/h (16 mph). But Wildcat is just one of a growing pack of quadrupeds under development in robot laboratories around the world.

Another example, hailing from Osaka University, is Pneupard, a biologically-inspired quadruped robot powered by pneumatic muscles. When we last saw this robot over a year ago, it was far from complete. Now a new version, equipped with all four limbs, is taking its first steps.

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Hitachi's EMIEW Robot Learns to Navigate Around the Office

First unveiled in 2007, Hitachi's adorable little service robot EMIEW 2 has been gradually improving over the years. Standing 80 centimeters tall and weighing 14 kilograms, the robot is rather unusual in that it moves on a combination of legs and wheels, a system that works a bit like roller skates. Recently Hitachi announced that the robot's software is able to understand its environment better than before, allowing it to mingle more harmoniously among workers in busy settings like offices and hospitals.

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Automaton

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

Editor
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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Angelica Lim
Tokyo, Japan
 

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